Irish business is receiving a range of support from the government and its agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. These have evolved and expanded with increased support announced at the start of May. Here we will provide you with a rolling update of developments and new measures introduced to minimise the impact of the crisis.
If you are impacted by these matters or would like to know more about how they might apply to your business, please contact us today.
*This information is correct as of date of publication: 8 May 2020.
Initially, the Government announced measures to support workers and employers temporarily impacted due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. In particular, this included enhanced illness benefit, and an enhanced unemployment payment also available to the self-employed.
In June the government announced that this Pandemic Unemployment Payment would be extended beyond June to 10 August with a two level payment structure from 29 June.
Further exceptional temporary measures to support workers and employers were introduced, mostly notably the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme being operated through the Revenue Commissioners.
It is targeted at employers whose business is significantly impacted by COVID-19, but who continue to keep employees on the payroll and to pay them.
Employers must demonstrate to Revenue’s satisfaction that they are experiencing significant negative business impact due to COVID-19 over the period 14 March to 30 June 2020. Eligibility is determined largely on the basis of self-assessment and declaration by the employer concerned, combined with a risk-focussed follow up verification by Revenue.
On 4 May, the scheme entered its second phase, moving to a subsidy payment based on each employee's normal net weekly pay and also incorporating the new subsidy amounts.
In June, the government announced that the scheme would remain in place until the end of August.
Revenue Commissioners have issued guidance around suspension of interest, debt enforcement, retention of tax clearance status and certain RCT measures. They are encouraging businesses in difficulties to engage with them. Guidance on e-workers and tax relief has also been updated to reflect the current situation.
Further guidance has been issued to taxpayers and their agents around other areas including information on the best way to interact with Revenue during this time. The guidance also details certain compliance changes such as extensions to various filing deadlines and suspension of certain tax measures. Changes were announced around BIK, residence rules, PAYE, share schemes, the SARP (Special Assignee Relief programme), corporation tax regarding presence in the state, close company surcharges and excise on certain medicinal products.
Renewal of existing Customs Special Procedure Authorisations has also been extended.
The approval and processing of repayments and refunds is being prioritised. Payment of instalments of excess R&D credit is being expedited subject to appropriate checks. Professional Services Withholding Tax (PSWT) interim refunds are being accelerated.
Revenue continues to issue updated guidance to businesses and this is done in good time before future returns are due.
Revenue will continue to issue updated guidance to businesses and this will be done in good time before future returns are due.
On 2 May, the Government announced legislation would be introduced to permit Revenue to 'warehouse' VAT and Payroll tax debt that arose on foot of the COVID-19 related restrictions. The main measure is that COVID-19 related VAT and payroll tax debts due from 1 March to the date when sectoral restrictions are being lifted, will be parked for a period of 12 months. The Revenue Commissioners released more details on 7 May. Under the scheme, VAT and PAYE (Employer) tax debts deferred while a business is unable to trade or was subject to restricted trading due to the COVID-19-related health restrictions, as well as debts for an additional two months after the business resumes 'normal' trading, will be ring-fenced by Revenue. There will be no collection of any of the debt in question during this period and no interest will apply.
To avail of the scheme, the tax debt will have to be quantified by the business through the filing of all relevant returns for the restricted trading phase. At the end of the 'warehoused' 12-month period, a reduced interest rate of 3% will apply on the repayment of such warehoused tax debt until it is fully paid.
For more details, please refer to our insight on tax warehousing.
Pending legislation, Revenue will operate the scheme on an administrative basis and has issued some guidance:
The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Department of Finance and their associated agencies have put a range of supports in place. These have been refined and expanded since their introduction. The main measures included:
Up to the start of May, the main measures included:
On 2 May, the government announced additional measures to help business restart, reconnect and rehire staff who have been laid off or furloughed. Some of the measures require further legislation and more details will be released in due course.
The Department has implemented a contingency plan to ensure that the Employment Permits system will continue to operate in all scenarios for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. The plan includes new arrangements around the acceptance and issuing of electronic documentation and is described in detail in department guidance.
Regarding wider issues on immigration, the government announced on 13 May that individuals whose valid existing immigration permission is to expire between 20 May and 20 July 2020 will now have their permission extended for a further two-month period. On 25 May, temporary measures were announced affecting first-time arrivals in Ireland who require Irish Residence Permission Cards. For further information, read our latest insight on these developments and other immigration issues.
More details of Government funding supports are also available in our summary and our online tool which helps you decide which schemes you may be eligible for.
The Government initially agreed with local authorities that they should defer rates payments due from the most immediately-affected businesses. These were the retail, hospitality, leisure and childcare sectors, for three months, until the end of May. On 2 May—the Government—recognising that many businesses are facing immediate difficulties and uncertainty, announced that commercial rates are being waived for a three-month period beginning on 27 March for businesses forced to close due to public health requirements. Each local authority will implement this measure in its own area and is engaging with its ratepayers, monitoring the impacts and keeping the evolving situation under review. The exchequer will meet the costs of the income reduction to local authorities.
The Registrar of Companies decided that all annual returns due to be filed by any company now and up to 30 June 2020 will be deemed to have been filed on time if all elements of the annual return are completed and filed by that date. On 29 May the Registrar announced an extension of this measure until 31 October 2020. An annual return will be deemed to be filed on time if the B1 form is captured, financial statements uploaded. Companies should pay the fee and submit it online and then deliver the signature page as normal to the CRO by that date. The filing can also be created as normal using Revenue Online Services (ROS) signatures instead of a signature page.
The Companies Registration Office is offering limited services to the public including company incorporations and receipt of charges and the online filing facility is still operational. The CRO is keeping this situation under review.
The Central Bank has reduced the Countercyclical Capital Buffer, from 1% to 0% from no later than 2 April, 2020. This ensures that banks are more flexible in keeping lending flowing and individuals and businesses can still avail of credit.
The main retail banks have introduced measures to help businesses and personal customers whose personal and business circumstances have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. A continuity of service plan is in place, so that critical functions can continue.
Banks introduced a three-month payment moratorium on mortgages, and personal and business loans for some business and personal customers affected. On 30 April, the Banking and Payments Federation announced that this payment break was extended to six months.
Banks are adopting a customer-focussed approach to businesses managing the effects of COVID-19 with a variety of tailored supports including extensions of credit lines, risk guarantees, and trade finance.
The Minister for Finance deferred the collection of stamp duty on credit cards to July.
The limit for contactless payments was raised from €30 to €50 and was in place in many retailers by 1 April.
The Minister for Finance engaged with the insurance industry to secure agreement on common measures for business customers around forbearance and insurance of unoccupied business premises and around aspects of motor insurance.