Accountancy firm’s shock at lack of support from Government for self-employed

A leading regional accountancy firm has expressed its shock at the lack of support for self-employed people in the latest Coronavirus business support package.

Sean Farnell, a partner at Burgis & Bullock, says that some individuals will have endured the whole pandemic without Government support, while the vast majority have received financial support in some form.Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced lockdown grants totalling £4.6 billion to help struggling businesses after the latest Covid-19 restrictions were announced.

Farnell recognises the difficulties in assessing which self-employed people need this support, but is surprised that the Government has developed a formula nine month’s on from the first lockdown.

He said: “I have a lot of sympathy for the Government. They have done a massive amount and should be applauded for it.

“But they could always do more as there are sectors of the economy that haven’t had the support.

“Some businesses, like those in the supply chain, have had no support since March. I know a number of self-employed people who earned over the 50k threshold in 2019 and have had no income or government support in 2020.

“It is very difficult to assess who the individuals are who need this support and I fear that is why Government has looked to avoid this group.

“If you’re a self-employed person you take all the risks and rewards of working for yourself. It’s not inconceivable that you can be profitable one year and then have very little income in subsequent years.

“The challenge for the Government is that income is only reported 12 months in arrears, even now you still are getting income reported up to March 2020 which can be quite buoyant for some of these businesses.

“One way of doing it could have been something similar to a Bounce Back Loan scheme for the self-employed and then given the opportunity, if their income was below a certain level when the tax return goes in, to write those loans off as a grant.

“It would have been complex and I understand why it hasn’t been done, but after nine months there should have been some solution.”

Burgis & Bullock has offices in Leamington, Nuneaton, Rugby and Stratford-upon-Avon.

The Chancellor has made £594 million available to local authorities to support businesses too and Farnell praised the work of local authorities in distributing funds over the course of the pandemic.

Sean added: “I’ve been very impressed with speed of reaction and flexibility of all of the local authorities in Coventry and Warwickshire, they have been outstanding to get cash out to local businesses.

“Hopeful the local authorities will react in manner they have so far in the pandemic and we’ll start to see that funding reach businesses.”