Chancellor Rishi Sunak tells the self-employed they can claim grants worth thousands during the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic

Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak

New support for the self-employed has been announced by the Chancellor.

Rishi Sunak told a coronavirus Covid-19 press briefing this afternoon musicians, sound engineers, plumbers and technicians, taxi drivers, childminders, hairdressers, and others who work for themselves they can claim a grant worth 80 per cent of their profits, capped at £2,500 per month and limited to those making less than £50,000 in profit.

Only those in self-employment with a tax return for 2019 will be able to apply, and other restrictions will be in place to prevent the system being abused, he said.

The taxman is working on the scheme, with people being contacted to fill in a form before the cash is paid into their bank account from June.

The scheme will run for an initial three months but will be kept under review.

"You have not been forgotten. We will not let you behind. We all stand together," Mr Sunak said, describing the financial package as similar to the one offered to those employed by firms.

"The Government will pay self-employed people who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month."

Mr Sunak urged all business chiefs to go online to businesssupport.gov.uk, especially before choosing to make staff redundant, to see what help is on offer.

Posting on Twitter, he wrote: "1/ I'm proud of what we've done so far, but I know that many self-employed people are deeply anxious about the support available for them.

"So to support those who work for themselves, today I am announcing a new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

"2/ The government will pay self-employed people, who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus, a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 per month.

"Open for at least 3 months across the UK, I will extend if necessary.

"3/ You'll be able to claim these grants and continue to do business.

"We're covering the same amount of income as we are for furloughed employees, who also get a grant worth 80%. That's unlike almost any other country, making our scheme one of the most generous in the world.

"4/ I've taken steps to make the scheme deliverable, and fair.

"It's only open to those with trading profits up to £50,000, who make a majority of their income from self-employment. To minimise fraud only those already in self-employment, who have a tax return for 2019 can apply.

"5/ 95% of people who are majority self-employed will benefit from this scheme.

"HMRC are working urgently, we expect people to access it no later than the beginning of June. If eligible, HMRC will contact you with an online form, they pay the grant straight to your bank account.

"6/ To make sure no one who needs it misses out on support, we have decided to allow anyone who missed the filing deadline in January, four weeks from today to submit their tax return.

"7/ I know self-employed people are struggling right now, we've made sure:

- You can access the business interruption loans.

- Income tax payments due in July can be deferred to the end of Jan 2021.

- We've changed the welfare system so you can access Universal Credit in full.

"8/ The scheme I have announced today is fair. It is targeted at those who need it the most and crucially, it is deliverable.

"It provides an unprecedented level of support for self-employed people."

Mr Sunak said the scheme will be available "no later" than the beginning of June.

He said that it is open to anyone with trading profits of up to £50,000 and will be only available to those who make the majority of their income from self-employment so only the "genuinely self-employed" benefit.

"And to minimise fraud only those who are already in self-employment who have a tax return for 2019 will be able to apply," he said.

"95% of people who are majority self-employed will benefit from this scheme.

"HMRC are working on this urgently and expect people to be able to access this scheme no later from the beginning of June."

Mr Sunak said those eligible will be contacted by HMRC and the money will be paid into their bank accounts.

And he said anyone who missed January's filing deadline will have four weeks to submit their tax return so no-one misses out on support.

For people who are struggling right now, self-employed people can access business interruption loans, and self-assessment income tax payments can be deferred until the end of January, Mr Sunak said.

He added that self-employed people can now access Universal Credit in full.

The Chancellor said: "This scheme will be open to people across the UK for at least three months.

"And, I will extend it for longer if necessary. You will be able to claim these grants and continue to do business."

He added: "To make sure that the scheme provides targeted support for those most in need it will open to anyone with trading profits of up to £50,000."

SNP MP Amy Callaghan tweeted: "Waiting until June for self-employed people to get support is unfathomable. My constituents are struggling now. Simply not good enough."

More than 9,500 people have now been confirmed to have the virus in the UK, according to the latest set of official figures, which date back to 9am yesterday.

Tests are only done in hospital, however, and the true number is feared to be much higher.

There have been at least 463 deaths.

In Lancashire, 78 people have been diagnosed with the disease, plus eight in Blackpool.