Recent changes to the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), and the Tax Debt Warehousing Scheme will help certain businesses affected by public health restrictions, explains AIDAN O’GORMAN.
Following the introduction of certain additional public health restrictions, the Government recently announced changes to three COVID-19 support schemes:
- Covid Restrictions Support Scheme – Changes have been introduced to support business in the hospitality and indoor entertainment sectors who have been significantly restricted from trading due to additional public health restrictions announced in December.
- Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme – The EWSS has opened to some new businesses and re-opened to businesses who came off the subsidy in 2021 but are now back in difficulty.
- Tax Debt Warehousing – Warehousing of eligible tax liabilities has been extended into the first quarter of 2022.
COVID RESTRICTIONS SUPPORT SCHEME
In December 2021, the Government introduced additional restrictions (including an 8pm closing time) for businesses in the hospitality and indoor entertainment sectors. Changes to the CRSS have been introduced to support these businesses.
Under the new measures (effective from 20 December 2021), businesses who would ordinarily operate evening and night time trading hours, will be considered to be significantly restricted from operating for the purposes of the CRSS and will be eligible for support under the scheme where they meet the eligibility conditions.
The scheme will also be available to certain charities and sporting bodies.
Who is eligible?
From 20 December 2021, companies, self-employed individuals, certain charities and approved sporting bodies and precedent partners on behalf of partnerships will be eligible to make a claim for an Advance Credit for Trading Expenses (ACTE) under the CRSS scheme provided that:
- the trade or trading activities are carried on from a business premises located wholly within a region of the country for which restrictions announced by the Government to combat the effect of Covid-19 are in operation, and
- under the specific terms of the Covid restrictions in operation for the region, members of the public are either prohibited or significantly restricted from accessing the business premises in which the relevant business activity is carried on—(a restriction on accessing the business premises of a business in the hospitality and indoor entertainment sectors after 8pm will be regarded as a significant restriction on access where the business ordinarily operates later than 8pm), and
- as a result of the Covid restrictions, turnover from the relevant business activity in the period for which the restrictions are in operation will be no more than 40% of an amount based on the average turnover of the business in a reference period. For most businesses the reference period will be 2019 however in the case of a business established in the period 26 December 2019 to 26 July 2021, the reference period will depend on the date on which the business was established and other conditions such as having a tax clearance certificate and having complied with obligations in relations to VAT.
The eligibility criteria must be met by claimants in respect of each period for which an ACTE is claimed.
Claimants will need to assess their eligibility for each individual claim period separately. To do so, they will need to establish the start and end date of each claim period.
The claim period will commence on the latest of the following dates:
- 13 October 2020 (the date the CRSS was announced)
- the date on which the Covid restrictions (which directly prohibit or significantly restricted customers from entering the business premises) came into operation.
The claim period will end on the earliest of the following dates:
- 3 weeks after the claim period commences
- the date on which the Regulations providing for the Covid restrictions are due to end
- the day before the date on which the terms of the restrictions are changed, with the result that the relevant business activity is subject to an increased, or decreased, level of restrictions
- 31 January 2022 (the day the CRSS is due to expire).
CRSS payment rate
A qualifying person is entitled to an ACTE for each full week within a claim period. For established businesses (i.e. where a person commenced a business prior to 26 December 2019), the weekly amount will be calculated by reference to turnover for the business activity for the period from 1 January to 31 December 2019 (10% of average weekly turnover for 2019 up to €20,000 and 5% thereafter).
Businesses who have qualified for CRSS in respect of a period of restrictions will, in certain circumstances, be eligible to claim an additional week of support (ACTE) under the scheme (a “restart week”) where the business is recommenced on the lifting of Covid restrictions. The purpose of the additional week of support is to assist with the costs of recommencing after a period of restrictions.
To qualify for the restart week, the following conditions apply:
- The relevant business must have been subject to restrictions, which required the business to either temporarily close or to significantly reduce its activities, such that the business was eligible to claim an ACTE, for a continuous period of not less than three weeks;
- The relevant business activity must be recommenced within a reasonable period of the lifting of the restrictions. What is a reasonable period of time will depend on the particular facts and circumstances, but the claim for the restart week should only be made when the business either is about to recommence its activities, or has recommenced those activities.
The amount of ACTE available to a business in the restart week will be calculated on the same basis as the normal claim, and therefore is subject to the weekly cap of €5,000 per week.
For the purposes of determining eligibility for the restart week, it is not necessary to consider the turnover of the business in the restart week. The business will still be eligible for an ACTE in the restart week even where the turnover of the business in that week is higher than 40% (25% prior to 20 December 2021) of the average weekly turnover of the business.
Note that once a business is no longer subject to Covid restrictions which require it to prohibit or significantly restrict customers from accessing its business premises, the business will not be eligible for CRSS for the periods it chooses not to open.
EMPLOYMENT WAGE SUBSIDY SCHEME
Under measures announced in Finance Act 2021, businesses that qualified for EWSS as at 31 December 2021 will continue to be supported until 30 April 2022.
A two-rate structure of €151.50 and €203 will apply from 1-28 February 2022. A flat rate subsidy of €100 will apply for March and April. The reduced rate of Employers’ PRSI will no longer apply for these two months.
Returning to EWSS
Businesses who deregistered from the EWSS scheme in 2021 may be able to return to the scheme if they are impacted by the additional public health restrictions announced on 17 December 2021. Depending on when the business was established, the re-entry criteria are:
- Businesses established on or before 30 April 2019 — To re-qualify for EWSS, the business must anticipate that their combined turnover for December 2021 and January 2022 will be down by at least 30% compared with their combined turnover for December 2019 and January 2020.
- Businesses established between 1 May 2019 and 31 December 2021— To re-qualify for EWSS the business must anticipate that their average monthly turnover for December 2021 and January 2022 will be down by at least 30% compared with the average monthly turnover across the period August 2021 to November 2021 (or on a pro-rata basis if established during this four month period).
The business must also have a valid tax clearance certificate.
Where the business meets the criteria for re-entry for EWSS, it will receive support on a prospective basis for January 2022 onwards, and can remain in the scheme until the expiry date (30 April 2022).
Businesses that commence operations from 1 January 2022 onwards are not eligible for the EWSS.
TAX DEBT WAREHOUSING
Tax Debt Warehousing was introduced in 2020 to provide liquidity support for businesses suffering downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The period where tax liabilities can be warehoused was subsequently extended to the end 2021 for all eligible taxpayers, with an interest free period during 2022, and 3% interest applying thereafter until the tax debt is repaid. Under changes announced in December 2021, the period where liabilities arising can be “warehoused” has been extended to the end of Q1 2022 for taxpayers eligible for COVID-19 support schemes.
Sheil Kinnear clients affected by changes to the Government’s COVID-19 support schemes can obtain further information and advice by contacting a member of our team.