Coronavirus: where the self-employed can turn for help

Freelancers and the self-employed should check what help they may be eligible for.

As MoneyWeek went to press, government insiders were letting it be known that more help would soon be announced for self-employed and freelance workers. It looks increasingly as though self-employed workers who lose their incomes will be able to access a package providing them with a guaranteed 80% of their average earnings over the past three years, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. That would be broadly equivalent to the support offered for employees.

However, freelancers and the self-employed should check what other help they may already be eligible for. Those who are registered for VAT will benefit from the right to defer their latest bill until the end of June. If you’re covered by the self-assessment income tax system, you can also defer the payment due at the end of July until January 2021. Where you have other tax liabilities you’re worried about meeting, contact HMRC’s Time to Pay scheme.

As for direct financial support, check what you can get from the benefits system. The Chancellor has already suspended the minimum income floor on Universal Credit for the self-employed. As a result they can access benefits worth the equivalent of statutory sick pay (though they get no official sick pay), which starts at £94.25 a week. In practice, you may be able to claim substantially more than this, depending on your individual financial circumstances. There could also be additional help from this Employment and Support Allowance. There is more information on benefits eligibility at Gov.uk, but you can also call the Universal Credit hotline (0800 328 5644).

By David Prosser

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