The COVID-19 outbreak has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, causing huge impact on people’s lives, families and communities. We now know that the virus could have an impact on our lives in Ireland for many months. As the governments response continues to develop, we know that SME’s are facing several potentially significant challenges to which they need to respond rapidly. Please see our eight business survival points below which business owners should now consider.
1.Apply for social welfare supports
Employees and the self-employed that have lost employment due to a downturn in economic activity caused by the Covid-19 can apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. If you have been forced to shut your business this payment will help both you and your staff in the short term.
In order to receive the payment, you fill in a one-page application form and you will be paid for a period of 6 weeks at a flat rate payment of €203 per week. The form is available here. Employers who must cease trading because of the impact of social distancing and continue to pay workers will be able to claim a refund of €203 per worker per week from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
This means that workers retain their link with employers and there is no need for them personally to submit a jobseeker’s claim. Prior to laying off staff you should review your employment contracts to ensure you can do this without any adverse costs / implications. For employer advice you can also contact the Workplace Relations Commission free of charge for employment advice on 1890 130 023 or www.workplacerelations.ie
2.Defer financial commitments where possible
All of the major banks have indicated that they will work with their customers during this period to ensure that they have access to funding where possible. If you have a bank loan, a payment holiday may be available so get in touch with your bank. Financial commitments in relation to properties / vehicles / equipment should be reviewed. You should consider whether these agreements should be terminated or repayments discontinued or repayments restructured.
As well as this, banks may offer temporary overdraft increases and short-term working capital loans. Also consider temporary increases in credit card limits, waiver of fees on early access to fixed savings accounts and late credit card, mortgage, and loan payments. A proactive approach here will conserve your cashflow.
3.Use this opportunity to organise your tax affairs early
Revenue have taken actions to assist SMEs experiencing cashflow difficulties:
- The application of interest on late payments is suspended for January/February VAT and both February and March PAYE (Employers) liabilities. You will be able to pay these bills at a later date without incurring interest.
- You can also apply for a phased payment arrangement with Revenue in terms of any tax liabilities you feel you will not be able to pay as they fall due. You can apply for this phased payment arrangement through ROS.
- Revenue advises that businesses continue to file returns as normal.
Our offices remain open and many people are using this downtime to organise their accounting and tax affairs. In times of crisis, it’s always easy to defer such things as doing accounts, but this will be the best time for you to get your affairs in order and it will help you to plan for future tax bills. Whilst we are closed for face to face meetings, we would be happy to assist you over the phone, by email or using Zoom for a virtual meeting. The sooner you get information to us, the earlier we will be able to confirm your tax liability and help you plan accordingly.
4.Use available government supports for working capital funding
There are several schemes available to SMEs to access capital to help them through this period. Here are some you may be eligible for:
- SBCI COVID19 Working Capital Scheme – A €200m Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) Working Capital scheme for eligible businesses impacted by COVID-19 has been announced. Loans of up to €1.5m will be available at reduced rates, with up to the first €500,000 unsecured. If you wish to be kept informed on developments please email the SBCI at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Credit Guarantee Scheme – This scheme aims to assist viable SMEs, which under normal lending criteria are unable to borrow from their bank, in accessing credit. The scheme operates by providing an 80% guarantee to participating finance providers (currently AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank) on qualifying loans to SMEs. More details can be found here
- Brexit Loan Scheme – This scheme also provides an 80% Government Guarantee on loans up to €1.5m for a 3 year term with a fixed interest rate of 4% for Brexit impacted (15% of your business either directly or indirectly exposed to the UK or NI) businesses. If you are Brexit impacted and may not have already availed of the scheme then this could be an option for you. Full details and an eligibility application form are available on the SBCI website
- Microfinance Ireland – An increase in the maximum loan available from MicroFinance Ireland (MFI) from €25,000 to €50,000, as an immediate measure to specifically deal with the exceptional circumstances that micro-enterprises are facing (i.e. sole traders and firms with up to 9 employees). Applications can be made through their website
- Enterprise Ireland – A €200m Package for Enterprise Supports including a Rescue and Restructuring Scheme will be available through Enterprise Ireland for viable but vulnerable firms that need to restructure or transform their businesses. Please contact your development advisor for further information. More information is available by emailing email@example.com or contact 01-727 2088
- Local Enterprise Offices in Cork will be providing vouchers from €2,500 up to €10,000 (with 50:50 match funding) to support business continuity preparedness, innovation and productivity. Again further details are available here
5.Examine your insurance policy
Review your insurance policy for the purpose of determining whether there is a business interruption clause which may cover the current business interruption. Also review your insurance policy to check would you, or your staff, be covered in any sickness claim? This is the value of having keyman insurance, and could be something you consider in the future.
6.Review business costs and proactively contact creditors today
Review all costs and reduce discretionary and non-essential expenses as far as possible. Fixed costs such as wages, rent, utilities, financing costs and tax liabilities not affected by a decline in sales need to be properly managed. Proactively contact creditors now and investigate whether costs can be spread rather than paying in one lump sum (e.g. car insurance).
7.Look ahead and embrace technology now in your business
The coronavirus crisis will change the way businesses and society works. When the urgent part of the crisis is over, businesses should consider what this crisis changes for them, what they have learned and plan for any future crisis.
Black swan events, such as economic recessions and pandemics, change the trajectory of businesses. With Covid-19, we are already seeing early signs of a shift in how consumers and businesses behave. Remote working is being encouraged by tech and non-tech companies alike, supply chains are getting disrupted globally and retail stores are running out of toilet paper. Some of these changes are direct, short-term responses to the crises and will revert to regular levels once Covid-19 is contained. However, some of these shifts will continue on, creating a long-term digital disruption that will shape businesses for decades to come.
It could be a good time to consider how your business can change their business operations in order to continue to service your customers. An investment in technology and innovation could be required, please consider contacting your LEO to enquire about vouchers that may be available, as outlined above.
From an accounting perspective. We have been actively advocating that all our clients embrace cloud accounting technology. Cloud accounting technology means even small businesses can continue to operate remotely with ease and communicate information to their accountant without any face to face contact. There is no VPN connection or remote desktop to be configured. There is no software that needs to be installed on anyone’s PC.
XERO is the cloud accounting technology which we use in our practice. Changing to cloud based accounting technology should be a consideration for all business owners going forward. As Eliot Hoff, the head of APCO Worldwide’s Global Crisis Practice has said about the virus: “There will be an end to this, as there is with every crisis.”
8.Keep in touch with your accountant
We care about your business, we will continue to remain open and working behind closed doors and we will keep in touch via email and social media. We also want you to keep in touch with us. The sooner that we are made aware of any problems, the easier it might be to solve them especially with reference to Revenue / HMRC payments. To contact us email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 023-8841899 remember we are #inthistogether.