Martin’s 16 things EVERYONE needs to know about lockdown finances

Please read and spread word 
Martin: 16 things EVERYONE needs to know about lockdown finances

Includes furlough, payment holidays, self-employed help, savings, university rights, working-from-home tax back, renting, self-assessment and more…

Life right now has a chilling, and depressing, sense of deja vu. Most of the UK is again in a form of lockdown, but this time it’s darker and colder. Physical and mental health is the prime concern, but tighter restrictions have a significant impact on livelihoods, income and finances too.

This time around at least, support mechanisms are already up and running. So I want to remind you of the key help, with links to more detailed info the team have diligently and hastily prepared. Even if they don’t affect you, do take a few minutes to go through them, so you can spread word.

1. Schools are shut for most – employees can be furloughed to look after their children. If you can’t work from home or can’t go to work due to childcare responsibilities, we have confirmed it is legal (and desirable), though not compulsory, for employers to furlough you. See furlough for childcare for more help. More on furlough below, as well as help for the self-employed with parental responsibilities.

If you can’t be furloughed, legally you’ve the right to take time off if needed to look after a dependant, but sadly you don’t have a right to be paid for this time. 

PS: Schools can apply for laptops and wireless internet routers for children not online.

2. To be furloughed you need to have been on your employer’s payroll by 30 Oct – it applies to zero-hours and agency workers too. A year ago furlough didn’t exist – now everyone knows it’s where the state funds the wages of employees who have no work or can’t work. Furlough is currently set to last until 30 Apr. It covers 80% of an employee’s salary, up to £2,500/mth. 

Most private employers can furlough staff including part-time, zero-hours and agency workers, and more. Yet it is totally at their discretion; you can’t force them. To qualify you need to have been on the ‘Real Time Information payroll submission’ your employer sent to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on or before 30 Oct (at the moment I’ve heard nowt about that date moving). Detailed help in how furlough works

3. Furlough is flexible – it can be for as little as an hour a week. You don’t have to be on furlough full-time. If work has reduced but not totally dried up, or you can do some work while caring for your child, you can be furloughed part-time, with hours changing weekly. You get the 80% of your pay for that period and full pay from your employer for time worked. See how flexible furlough works.

4. The self-employed with a biz due to suffer a significant profit reduction (incl due to parental responsibilities) may get up to £7,500. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant 3 can be applied for until 29 Jan. The SEISS eligibility criteria are, briefly, that you must have filed a tax return for 2018/19, have an avg trading profit of less than £50,000/yr, and 50%+ of your income must be from self-employment.

If you qualify, lockdown or other recent tier changes may have triggered the ability for you to apply. This involves declaring that, between 1 Nov 2020 and 31 Jan 2021, you’ve a reasonable belief of a significant Covid-related trading-profits reduction due to either:

a) You’re temporarily unable to trade due to lockdown, parental/caring responsibilities, or instructions to shield/self-isolate (excl going abroad).
b) You’ve had lower demand, activity or capacity (eg, fewer customers, cancelled contracts, supply chain issues). See our full what counts for the SEISS declaration help.

5. Required to work from home, even for one day, since 6 Apr? Join the 1.4m+ who have claimed a year’s tax relief. I’ve been shouting about this here and on my show since Oct, and my claim work-from-home tax back blog’s been viewed an incredible 6.6m times since. The rebate is worth £60 or £125 and HMRC told us last week about 1.4m had claimed. It’s usually a doddle to do. 

PS: Doing self-assessment for 2019/20? If you worked from home last March, you can claim for that too on your form, via the ‘other expenses and capital allowances’ box – more info in the blog.

6. Payment holidays for mortgages, cards, loans, car finance etc available until 31 Mar. Those struggling financially due to Covid who haven’t had a payment holiday can near-automatically get one for 3mths, then another after 3mths. Those who have already had one can do it for up to a total 6mths. For more, see my Should you take a payment holiday? blog. Here are the deadlines and links to more info…

– Until 31 Jan: £500 0% overdrafts (only a few banks incl Lloyds, Halifax, Santander are doing this, as the regulator no longer requires it)
– Until 31 Mar: Mortgage payment holidays (home repossessions are currently banned until 31 Jan – that may be extended)
– Until 31 Mar: Credit & store cards, personal loans & catalogue debt
– Until 31 Mar: Car finance (PCP, lease, HP), pawnbroking, buy-now-pay-later & rent to own, payday loans (interest & payment hols)
– Until 20 Apr: Individual voluntary arrangements 

If you’ve already had 6mths of payment holidays, you’ll be put on to “tailored support” – ie, it’s up to providers to try to find a way to help you.

7. Interest rate cut more likely – consider locking in fixed savings. According to investment platform AJ Bell, the lockdown means markets are now pricing in the odds of a UK interest rate cut this year at 50%, and for it to stay as now at 50% (before lockdown it was 30%/70%). Of course the UK base rate is already at a historically low 0.1%, so that could mean rates cut to zero or even negative.  

To stave that off, while top fixed-rate savings are low too, at least the rate is locked in so once you get it, it can’t drop further. It’s worth considering for money you don’t need access to but can’t risk by investing.

8. Universal credit is the catch-all help – don’t dismiss it. Universal credit is a benefit available to many employed, self-employed and unemployed people or those on low incomes, whether furloughed, getting SEISS or not. See our Covid universal credit help. Many dismiss it, but while it’s not perfect it may help.

At the top end, including housing allowances it can be worth £1,500/mth tax-free. So if you’re struggling, check if you’re eligible – use our 10-min Benefits Check tool to see. Though those with savings above £6,000 get less (rightly or wrongly – you’re expected to then support yourself more).

9. Most uni students should ‘stay where you are’ – what does this mean for accommodation and tuition fees? With a few exceptions, such as medical, vet and teaching courses, most UK students – even some on practical courses – are being advised against physically returning to university for now.

Sadly there is no automatic refund entitlement for accommodation costs, though even before this week in Eng and Scot, some unis told us they were offering rent refunds or discounts. With private renting it’s even more difficult. See uni accommodation Covid refund help for more.

As for tuition fees, the Govt says the fact teaching is online does not mean you’re due a refund, as long as the quality is there (some lawyers may argue different). Many unis are struggling financially and logistically right now too. Last Sept I did a video on tuition fee refund rights if teaching’s now online, most of which still stands.

10. Renters who need help, speak to your landlord. Landlords and tenants may be financially hurting due to the pandemic, so forbearance, tolerance and meeting in the middle is best for both.

Many landlords with mortgages can get a payment holiday if their tenants are struggling to pay – so have the conversation. Yet tenants don’t have a right to a rental holiday as mortgage holders do. See renters’ Covid help for more.

Evictions in Eng/Wales are currently banned until Monday – let’s hope common sense prevails and it’ll be extended. Updates in rental help.

11. No news for those excluded, but I’m hopeful for SEISS 4. Up to 2.9m people have been excluded from furlough or SEISS, including PAYE freelancers, ltd company directors, new-starter self-employed and more – personally, as I told the Treasury Committee, I believe this is a short-sighted mistake.

I’ve no update, but do think SEISS grant 4 may now be tweaked to include more people, strengthening the reasons I first explained in my A glimmer of hope for excluded self-employed blog last Nov.

12. Don’t miss the 31 Jan self-assessment deadline – incl for making past delayed payments. If you’ve been asked to do a self-assessment form for the 2019/20 tax year (normally self-employed/higher incomes/complex affairs) then the deadline as normal is 31 Jan online.

Last year the Govt allowed people to delay their advance payment due on 31 Jul 2020 by 6mths. This ends on 31 Jan, and isn’t being extended, yet speak to HMRC and you may be able to agree a separate repayment plan. See full self-assessment help.

13. Bounce back loans can be used to replace lost income for the self-employed. These loans allow small biz owners to borrow up to £50,000, interest and repayment-free for the first 12mths. For those who can’t get other support, in some circumstances they can be used to replace lost personal income. Full help in our Bounce Back Loans guide.

14. Holidays are now banned for those across much of the UK – can you get a refund? Given for Eng/Scot/Wales (not NI) leisure travel is illegal, the competition watchdog says you should usually be due a full refund, but in practice it can be tricky to enforce in some cases. We’ve full help in our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

15. You can still move home, get an MOT and go to the dentist, but driving tests are cancelled. Some activities aren’t restricted this time round. In all UK nations you can still go to the dentist, get an MOT done, view a property and move home. See our Coronavirus Life in Lockdown guide for much more. Driving tests are suspended though (except motorcycle tests in NI), but you will get a refund. 

16. New business grants (Eng) for retail, leisure, hospitality and others. Biz finance isn’t my or MSE’s bag. Yet it has just been announced that there’s to be: a) one-off top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses up to £9,000 per property, and b) a £594m discretionary fund for other businesses. The Federation of Small Businesses has info, and it says it’ll add more.

All the latest updates & info goes in our constantly updated, detailed Covid help guides on Finance & bills | Employees | Self-employed & ltd companies | Lockdown life | Benefits | Travel

——————————————-

My lockdown financial survival guide
We’re back 8.30pm Thu, ITV – Martin’s Money Show LIVE

We’re back after a few weeks off, and no surprise my big briefing will be on the latest coronavirus financial help. Plus loads of up-to-the-minute key info to cut costs in the week’s crucial financial briefing.

And as for the rest, that’s up to you – you can tweet suggested questions on owt you like to @MartinSLewis, but pls use the show’s hashtag #MartinLewis. Do tune in or set the Betamax.