Practical Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice

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Summer economic update comments from our experts

To support the recovery of the UK economy from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a series of measures to encourage employers to keep on staff and make new hires, and to boost spending.

Our Tax and HR experts comment on the measures announced in the Chancellors Summer Statement.

Upcoming webinar events

COVID-19 Webinars

Business Distress Q&A

Funding & Cash Management

How to reboot your business model

Masterclass – Forecasting and financing your way to a brighter future 

Our latest resources and support

The COVID-19 Exit Strategy – what’s your plan?

It’s time for business to work out their own plan

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement as to England’s* conditional plan to move out of the present Coronavirus enforced situation, businesses should now be forward planning their own exit from the lockdown.

Businesses will be getting used to their own ‘Real Time Contingency Planning’ (active for a few weeks now) which has undoubtedly made businesses much more agile in decision-making and will now fall into the category of the new normal, thus enabling businesses to become better prepared for all eventualities. This will be bolstered by the promise of guidance on how their workplaces can become “Covid secure”.

Directors and owners will be in a particularly difficult position as they now must create a safe environment which may involve time, a decision on financial investment vs the cost of remaining closed and an assessment of the threat/risk to their staff of not having a safe place to work.

With the Prime Minister urging people who cannot work at home, especially those in construction and manufacturing sectors, to return to their jobs from the week commencing the 11th May, it should be noted that the Chancellor will be looking to withdraw or reduce grants available to business.

All the more reason for all businesses to plan ahead and to consider our exit strategy checklist.

*lockdown measures for the devolved nations (Scotland, Wales and Norther Ireland) may differ.

Remember your Employer Data Protection responsibilities

The ICO have published new Q&A guidance on Coronavirus testing of staff in the workplace and how employers can ensure they remain compliant with all data protection legislation.

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Need specialist advice and support for your business?

Simon Underwood - Menzies Accountant

Simon Underwood
DD: +44 (0)20 7465 1932
Business Distress & Insolvency Specialist

John Foundling - Menzies Accountant

John Foundling
DD: +44 (0)1489 566706

CBILS & Corporate Finance Specialist

Sadie Channing - Menzies Accountancy Firm

Sadie Channing
DD: +44 (0)1252 894921

Cash Flow Management & Forecasting Specialist

Mark Perrin - Menzies Accountant

Mark Perrin
DD: +44 (0)1489 566702

Business Strategy Specialist

Denise Love - Menzies Accountant

Denise Love
DD: +44 (0)1483 758919
Payroll Specialist

Ed Hussey - Menzies Accountant

Ed Hussey
DD: +44 (0)1784 497105
HR & CJRS (Furlough) Specialist

Andrew Brookes - Menzies Accountant

Andrew Brookes
DD: +44 (0)1252 541244
Employer Tax & CJRS (Furlough) Specialist

Karen Gibb - Menzies Accountant

Karen Gibb
DD: +44 (0)1784 479199
HR & CJRS (Furlough) Consultant

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More useful links

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HMRC GUIDANCE – COVID-19 – EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCE AND STAMP DUTY SURCHARGE

Due to the impact of the current pandemic on the housing market HMRC have updated their guidance on what will be accepted as an exceptional circumstance if it has not been possible to sell an old property within 3 years of acquiring the new property due to the current situation.  This may enable a claim to still be made to recover the higher rate (3% surcharge) paid on acquiring the new property even if the 3 years have been exceeded.  

Whether there is an exceptional circumstance will still depend on the facts in each case but the guidance now states as an example of what could be accepted as the following:

“being prevented from selling the property owing to government guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic”. 

See link to full guidance below:

Richard Turner - Menzies Accountant

Richard Turner, Senior manager and property specialist.

Income Tax & the Self employment income support scheme (SEISS) 

Deferring the second self-assessment payment on account due on 31 July 2020 until January 2021

  • All UK taxpayers are eligible – you do not need to be self-employed to be eligible for the deferral
  • Applies automatically – no applications necessary
  • No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

Following increasing pressure, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has issued a further financial package targeted at those who derive the majority of their income from self-employment who are facing hardship due to the Covid 19 pandemic.  The self-employed includes partners in a partnership.

The amount of grant available could be worth up to £2,500 per month for 3 months, and the expectation is for this to be rolled out by June 2020.  The scheme will be reviewed and may well be extended.

There is not much detail available as yet, and the Chancellor appears to have delayed roll out for a few days to try and prevent any illegitimate claims.  To qualify, the individual must have been self employed for the 2018/19 tax year, still trading in the current tax year, and anticipate trading in the 2020/21 tax year.  If you were not self-employed in 2018/19, you will not qualify under the rules as they stand and as announced.

How to submit an SEISS Claim

HMRC have now updated their guidance so that individuals can log in and check if they are eligible for the self-employment income support scheme grant. HMRC’s system will also provide a time and date from which individuals can apply for the grant, if they are deemed eligible. We have created a supporting guide which you can follow to check your eligibility and also ensure you are prepared when the time comes to make your online claim.

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Business funding options & managing your financial commitments

Business interruption loan scheme (CBILS)

In the first instance we strongly recommend all SME business owners speak to their banks to understand all options available to them, as the loan guarantees are not available to large corporates with turnover above £45m. The new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme is being launched to help businesses £45m – £500m turnover during April 2020.

Up to £5m emergency funding from the banks with the Government providing an 80% guarantee to the bank. Personal Guarantees for 20% of the loan will be required for loans above £250,000. The process is being simplified businesses should approach their relationship banker with their, most up to date P&L and Balance Sheets and updated forecasts in the first instance along with details of other measure and Government support taken.

Key details at glance

  • Businesses with less than £45m turnover
  • All businesses affected by Covid-19
  • Sector eligibility only a few exceptions; banks, insurance and public sector businesses
  • A sound borrowing proposal is required
  • Amount – £1,000 to £5,000,000
  • Term – Up to 6 years
  • Interest – Interest free for the first 12 months followed by sensible low rates
  • Capital repayment holiday (at lenders discretion 12 months on offer from several)
  • Fees – No arrangement fees are being levied
  • Available through 40 lenders including the high street banks
  • Administered by the British Business Bank.

A package of information may be required as part of the application which should include the latest annual accounts, current management accounts and forecasts  along with details of other measures implemented.

These are being made available from 23 March 2020 initially for six months.

Latest CBILS change (29/04/2020)

In an effort to accelerate the CBILS process, the Government has announced that all the banks will need to assess whether a business was viable pre Covid-19. This means that the bank does not need a forecast.

In the absence of a forecast, the bank will rely on their judgement and whilst in some instances this may prove helpful to smaller SME’s accelerating the lending process, – perhaps where the shortfall after furloughing staff is easily determined – for many other businesses it is the forecasting process that will enable them to establish the requirement.

Therefore our advice to businesses remains that they would be best advised to prepare a forecast in support of their CBILS application.

Essentially preparing a financial forecast is best practice and will:

  • Demonstrate good management;
  • Enable the right amount of funding to be sought;
  • Support medium term recovery planning; and
  • Underpin affordability.

Whilst the panel of lenders offering CBILS has increased to 52, your main bankers remain best placed to help you and the lender most likely to support your business. 

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Large Business’ CBILS

This scheme is set to launch on Monday 20th April. here is a summary of key criteria and amounts (as currently understood):

  • Businesses with turnover greater than £45m
  • Loans up to £25m, or £50m if turnover is greater than £250m 
  • Available if the business is unable to source regular finance
  • The Government will provide the lender with an 80% Guarantee
  • Confirmation is also provided that PE firms will be able to access the scheme.

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Future Fund – Matched Loan Scheme for Innovative companies

The Chancellor has announced (20th April 2020) a fund to help high growth and Innovative companies, which will be available in May.

In summary (although the conversion rights are more complex) the scheme provides the following:

What is it?

Matched loan monies provided by the Government to support Innovative companies (typically reliant on equity funding for their business). 

Who is eligible?

Companies that have raised at least £250k of equity from 3rd party investors, within the last 5 years.

(The intention is to help companies that have been reliant on equity funding and do not qualify for CBILS, to bridge them until their next equity funding round)

What is the funding?

The Future Fund will provide matched loans with automatic conversion into equity at the next equity round or on maturity repayment subject to a redemption premium or conversion into equity.

How much can I borrow?

£125,000 – £5,000,000 Subject to at least equally matched funding from private investors.

What are the interest rates?

Minimum 8% pa paid on maturity, higher where private investors agree higher rates for the matched funding.

What can I use the money to do?

The funding has to be used solely for working capital.

The funding cannot be used to:

  • Repay any borrowings
  • Pay dividends
  • Pay bonuses to anyone
  • Pay any advisory or placement fees (in respect of the Government loan) to external advisers.

When do the loans convert into equity?

The loans will automatically covert into equity at the next equity funding round which is in aggregate equal to the total loan (Government and private investor monies). The accrued interest can be repaid separately.

What price is the conversion?

A minimum 20% discount to the price set in the funding round, or greater if agreed with matched investors.

What happens on maturity?

On maturity the loans can either be:

  1. Repaid with a redemption premium – 100% of the principal amount; or
  2. Converted into equity at a 20% discount to the most recent funding round.

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Bounce Back Loans (27/04/2020)

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new fast-track finance scheme providing loans with a 100% government-backed guarantee for small businesses.

Coronavirus business loans

Here follows the key details of the scheme based on the information known:

Amount: £2,000 –  £50,000 (25% of turnover limit)
Interest: 12 months interest free (followed by a low rate of interest)
Term: 12 months capital repayment holiday 6 Year term 
Security: 100% Guarantee from the Government
Eligibility: Business impacted by Covid-19; and not in difficulty as at 31 December 19.
How to apply: Apply online – a simple form
Relationship with CBILS: businesses can have one or the other, but not both.

If a business has a £50k CBILS they can apply to transfer it into a Bounce Back Loan until 4 November 2020.

Available from Monday 4th May (Funds available in days)

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R&D Relief, CBILS and COVID-19

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS) is seen as an invaluable source of income to sustain many businesses at this difficult time. This said however, companies must be aware that this scheme could potentially impact future R&D claims.

As you will imagine, we are receiving a high volume of questions about R&D reliefs in the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst we await more information here is a summary of the latest from the UK Government, but given the fast-changing situation this is likely to be clarified and we will provide further information as soon as we can.

The issue

  • The SME R&D scheme is notified state aid, approved by the European Commission.
  • The Government has notified CBILS as a state aid under the European Commission’s new Temporary Framework for COVID-19.
  • The measure is a fully notified aid, so the restriction on receipt of other state aid (s1138(1)(a) CTA 2009) potentially applies, if the CBILS relates specifically to the company’s R&D expenditure [on a project] rather than being intended more generally to support the company.
  • The above will depend on the facts and HMRC will be monitoring the application of this rule.

The impact – what does this mean?

  • A company cannot claim under the SME R&D scheme for a project if they have received another notified state aid, as the rules do not allow a company to receive two state aids for the same project. 
  • If a company receives the CBILS and uses this to fund an R&D project they will be unable to make a claim for the same expenditure under the SME R&D scheme. 
  • A company would still be able to claim under the large (RDEC) scheme for expenditure incurred on the project.

If companies are considering the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS) they should talk to Menzies to discuss the impact on future R&D claims and potential ways in which risks can be mitigated.

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VAT Deferring and Rates Reliefs

VAT relief for PPE (03/07/20)

HMRC have announced a temporary relief from VAT for all sales of PPE. The rate of VAT to be charged has been reduced from 20% to 0%, for all sales between 1 May 2020 and 31 July 2020, now extended to 31 October 2020. 

This measure applies to sales to any business or individual but will be of particular benefit to businesses in the healthcare and residential care sectors which are unable to claim back VAT on these costs. 

The products covered by the zero rate include:

  • disposable gloves
  • disposable plastic aprons
  • disposable fluid-resistant coveralls or gowns
  • surgical masks – including fluid-resistant type IIR surgical masks
  • filtering face piece respirators
  • eye and face protection – including single or reusable full face visors or goggles

VAT relief on e-books (30/04)

It was announced in the budget that the anomaly in VAT legislation which meant that paper books were sold without VAT but the electronic version of the same publication was subject to VAT at 20% would be removed with effect from 1 December. 

In light of the current lockdown, this change has been brought forward and will take affect on 1 May 2020.

With effect from 1 May 2020, electronic supplies of the vast majority of products listed below, will be zero rated:

  • books
  • booklets
  • brochures
  • pamphlets
  • leaflets
  • newspapers
  • journals and periodicals (which include magazines)
  • children’s picture and painting books

Some exceptions will apply to publications if more than half of the content is advertising, audio or video. Audio books remain standard rated.

Deferring VAT payments for 3 months.

  • All UK VAT registered business are eligible – no applications necessary
  • Businesses do not need to make a VAT payment during this period
  • VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal
  • Don’t need to pay any accumulated liabilities until 31st March 2021
  • No interest or penalties on the amounts deferred
  • Deferral includes all VAT return payments including payments on account.

It is currently anticipated that liabilities due for payment after 30th June will need to be paid on time.

“This will be a major cash flow boost for our business which is estimated to be over £2.5 million as an interest free loan until end of Q1 2021 without having to jump through hoops to get it!”

A Menzies Client on the value of the VAT deferral

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR THOSE THAT PAY BY DIRECT DEBIT

Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.

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Bank of England Lending Facility

Large businesses impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak will be able to access a new lending facility, which will be run and funded by the Bank of England.

The Covid Corporate Financing Facility will provide short term bridging finance to businesses by purchasing a type of debt called commercial paper. The BoE has stated that the aim is to support liquidity and ensure businesses can pay rent, staff, suppliers and purchase stock, however we are awaiting details of eligibility criteria The scheme is expected to be running by the start of next week.

Key details at glance

  • Open to non-financial firms that make a material contribution to UK economy
  • Investment grade credit rating or similar (i.e. similar financial health, even if they haven’t got a credit rating) before the crisis
  • Amount: Uncertain
  • Term: Up to 12 months

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Time to Pay Arrangements

Businesses owners or individuals in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be able to agree a Time To Pay arrangement with HMRC. These are agreed on a case-by-case basis, subject to taxpayers’ individual circumstances and ability to pay, and would allow business to defer HMRC liabilities for a limited period.

In expectation of increased demand, HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline, will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business has problems meeting its filing obligations or paying its taxes due to COVID-19.

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Business Rates Reliefs

It was announced last week that the discount will be increased to 100% for one year and extended to all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England, including any property used wholly or mainly as a:

  1. shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues,
  2. for assembly and leisure; or
  3. as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.

In addition, a further business rates relief has been created for Nursery Businesses, which will operate on the same basis.

As this is a measure for 2020/21 only, the Government is not changing the law relating to business rates reliefs. Instead it will be for individual local authorities to adopt a local scheme and determine in each individual case when to grant relief under their discretionary relief powers. To help them with this, the Government has provided detailed eligibility criteria.

Key details at glance

  • Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019/20 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.
  • Some local authorities will apply the discount automatically to all eligible businesses, others may requires businesses to apply to receive the discount.

Your local authority should be able to help with any questions on eligibility.

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Three month rent holiday for commercial tenants

Commercial tenants who miss rent payments because of Coronavirus in the period until 30 June 2020 will be protected from eviction. Further measures  are to be introduced to protect tenants against aggressive debt recovery actions during this period.

As commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent after this period, the Government has said it will continue to speak to commercial landlords and review the impact that the measures are having on their cash flow.

As tenants may be required to settle any arrears, with interest, on expiry of this period, they should consider the impact that this will have on their cash flow, and if necessary, open discussions with their landlord as soon as possible. If you require advice regarding your cash flow management, please contact your Menzies representative who will be happy to help.

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Grant funding

For small businesses and the retail and hospitality sector

Additional funding will be made available via local authorities in England to support small businesses that already pay little or no Business Rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) or Rural Rate Relief.

The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property, depending on the rateable value of their property.

Once up and running, no application will be necessary as councils will contact businesses (based on their business rates records), however no funds will be available until early April.

Key details at glance

  • One-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.
  • Retail, hospitality or leisure businesses with a ratable value under £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000
  • Larger grants of £25,000 for retail, hospitality or leisure businesses operating from premises with a rateable value over £15,000 but below £51,000.
  • Your local authority should be able to help with any questions on eligibility (although firm hoping to claim the Retail and Hospitality grant may have to await further Government guidance which has been promised shortly)

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Mortgage lenders

Borrowers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19 should speak to their lender as soon as possible, with details of your current financial position. Lenders have agreed that they will support customers, including through payment holidays, or reduced payments, of up to 3 months. 

This option should be considered carefully, particularly if your circumstances are unlikely to change, as the interest that you would have paid during this period will be rolled up and added to the balance due. Nor is it clear whether the term of the mortgage would be extended, which could result in borrowers having to make higher repayments over the remaining term of the mortgage.

Other options may be to see if you could transfer to a better mortgage deal for you.

Insurance

Businesses should check with their insurance provider if they are covered. The Insurance industry has confirmed that the Government advice to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres etc. is sufficient for businesses to claim on their insurance where they have appropriate business interruption cover for pandemics in place. However, many businesses are unlikely to be covered as most business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property, which will exclude pandemics. 

Policies should be checked carefully as some businesses may have purchased a specific add-on relating to notifiable diseases (which includes Covid-19), but some of these will still specify damage to the building. Other businesses may have purchased supply chain or denial of access cover which may meet their needs in this case.

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Three month extension period to file company accounts

Businesses can now apply for a 3 month extension for filing their accounts. Companies will still have to apply for this extension, but those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. The applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete.

While this will ease the burden on those businesses that are struggling as a result of COVID-19, where possible companies should still be aiming to file their accounts on time.  In these challenging times having current financial information will be crucial.

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Supporting your people

Working safely guidelines

The UK Government has released a series of new ‘Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ guidelines. Published to Gov.uk, these 8 guides cover a range of different types of work. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.

Construction and other outdoor work

Guidance for people who work in or run outdoor working environments.

Factories, plants and warehouses

Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.

Homes

Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes as well as their employers.

Labs and research facilities

Guidance for people who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments.

Offices and contact centres

Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.

Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery

Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services.

Shops and branches

Guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.

Vehicles

Guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.

For employees who are not paid – or have pay reduced – for a period of time, they may be entitled to state benefits such as Universal Credit, Job Seekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.  They should start an application on-line for Universal Credit. 

Staff who are mortgage holders may also be able to agree a payment holiday with their lenders.

Staff who become affected by the virus or who are required to self-isolate will be entitled to statutory sick pay, and the government have waived the normal three day waiting period to allow employees to receive payment from day one (or isolation).   Whereas SSP is normally paid at the employer’s cost, the government has announced that it will meet the cost of providing statutory sick pay for up to 14 days for workers in companies with up to 250 employees.

Annual Leave Entitlement

The government have announced changes to employee annual leave entitlement following on from the Covid-19 pandemic we’re currently facing. The update means that employees who have not been able to take all their statutory leave due to Covid-19 will be able to roll these holidays over the next two leave years.

Statutory Sick Pay Claims – updated 21/05/2020

HMRC have announced that a new online claim facility will be available from Tuesday 26th May for eligible businesses to claim Covid related SSP refunds.

While at face value this is good news, there are some issues to be considered before making a claim:

1. HMRC have communicated the Covid SSP claim process will be a separate to the standard RTI submissions and CJRS claims. Therefore additional administrative work is required;

2. HMRC have not yet provided insight into the portal and how the process will work. This information will most likely be made available when the portal becomes available on Tuesday 26th May;

3. If the CJRS claim process is anything to go by, this process will be far from simple;

4. As the claims are likely to be very small for most businesses, we anticipate that most businesses will want to deal with SSP claims themselves rather than incur professional costs that may exceed the amount of the claim. 

5. For those clients who still wish us to support the Covid SSP claim process and upload, we will be communicating to them in due course, once the portal is made available.

We feel it is unfortunate that HMRC have introduced a new process to make these claims rather than simply claiming through the RTI system which would have been much more efficient and cost effective.

Key details at a glance

  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees (as of 28 February 2020)
  • Reclaim up to 2 weeks SSP for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility rules) as a result of COVID-19
  • Employers should record staff absences, but GP fit notes not required
  • The scheme commenced as of the 13th March 2020.

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How is Menzies responding to Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to dominate the news, with major implications for public health and the NHS. It is also causing economic disruption and we want to reassure you we have put in place sensible measures to ensure that Menzies is well prepared and well positioned to continue to support you and handle your work. 

We are focused on two key aspects: the health and welfare of both our clients and staff and our ability to continue to support clients. In light of this we’ve pulled together a range of Brighter Thinking resources that may help you manage the uncertainty within your business.

We would encourage all business owners to be actively reviewing their short, medium and long-term cashflow forecasts and seek early advice and support to proactively manage your business risk.

As the situation evolves all businesses will need to adapt. We can support you to manage many of the impacts of Coronavirus on your business.

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#KeepBritainGoing

We’ve joined forces with #KeepBritainGoing to curate  a hub of important content for businesses and individuals. So whether you’re a work from home CFO parent teaching warrior, an accountant superstar supporting business owners or just someone looking for tips and advice, this hub is for everyone who shares the same goal of supporting each other through these difficult times. 

How can you get involved

  • Spread the word by sharing the hashtag #KeepBritainGoing
  • Follow them across social media – Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn
  • Get involved by letting #KeepBritainGoing know what you can to do help.

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