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Coronavirus: a guide to the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and how to apply

3-minute read

Lauren Hellicar

6 May 2020

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Updated: 14 July 2020

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is a temporary scheme set up by the government to help self-employed people survive the coronavirus pandemic.

It was initially set up for three months, providing one lump sum to those affected, but has been extended to provide a second and final payment. You can read more about the second SEISS payment in our follow-up article.

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What is the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)?

The government’s Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) might be described as the self-employed version of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for employed people.

While you’ll still owe Income Tax and National Insurance on any money you get through the SEISS, it’s a grant rather than a loan. This means you won’t need to pay it back.

How much do you get under the SEISS?

The first SEISS payment for self-employed people and members of partnerships is worked out as:

  • 80 per cent of your average monthly trading profits (more on this below) for three months
  • up to a maximum of £7,500
  • a payment in one instalment, subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance

The second and final SEISS payment will be worked out as:

  • 70 per cent of your average monthly trading profits for three months
  • up to a maximum of £6,570
  • a payment in one instalment, subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance

How do I work out my trading profits for SEISS?

HMRC works out your average trading profit by taking your total trading profits or losses for tax years 2016-17 + 2017-18 + 2018-19 and dividing by three.

If you’re self-employed, HMRC will work out your trading profit after allowable business expenses. They’ll do this by adding any losses brought forward from previous tax years to the amount shown on your tax return as ‘total taxable profits from this business’.

If you’re a member of a partnership, HMRC will work out your share of the partnership’s profit after adjustments. They’ll do this by adding any losses brought forward from previous years to the amount shown as ‘your share of the total taxable profits from the partnership’s business’.

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Who can claim for SEISS?

The scheme has been set up to provide financial support to self-employed people and people in partnerships who’ve been ‘adversely affected’ by the coronavirus pandemic.

HMRC will work out if you’re eligible, but you can use the online eligibility checker to find out the likely outcome.

Make sure you have your Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number and National Insurance number to hand.

You need to:

  • have traded in tax year 2018-19 and submitted your 2018-19 Self Assessment tax return on or before 23 April 2020
  • have traded in tax year 2019-20
  • intend to keep trading in tax year 2020-21
  • carry on a trade that’s been ‘adversely affected’ by coronavirus
  • take in trading profits of no more than £50,000
  • make more than half of your income from being self-employed

If you didn’t submit your 2018-19 Self Assessment tax return by 23 April 2020 you won’t be able to claim SEISS.

What does ‘adversely affected by coronavirus’ mean?

According to the government website, ‘adversely affected’ means, for example:

You can’t work because:

  • you’re shielding
  • you’re self-isolating
  • you’re on sick leave because of coronavirus
  • you have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus

You’ve reduced or temporarily stopped trading because:

  • your supply chain has been interrupted
  • you have fewer or no customers or clients
  • your staff can’t come in to work

How do I apply for the SEISS?

The deadline for applying for the first SEISS payment was 13 July 2020. But you may still be able to claim for the second grant if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020.

The government website says the online claim service isn't available yet, and that those who are eligible will be able to claim for a second and final grant from 17 August 2020.

Make sure you have the following information to hand when you claim:

  • Self Assessment UTR
  • National Insurance number
  • Government Gateway user ID and password
  • bank account number and sort code (which must accept BACS payments)

When will SEISS payments be paid?

You’ll find out whether you’ll get the grant as soon as you’ve made your SEISS claim. If they approve your claim, the money should come through within six working days.

Make sure you keep a copy of all records associated with your claim, the same as you would for all your other self-employed records. You should keep a record of:

  • the amount you claimed
  • your claim reference number
  • evidence that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus

This is so you can report your grant:

  • on your Self Assessment tax return
  • as self-employed income if you claim Universal Credit
  • as self-employed income if you claim tax credits

Can I keep working if I get SEISS?

Unlike furloughed employees under the CJRS, the SEISS allows self-employed people to continue working. You’re also free to start a new trade, employment, volunteering, or be an armed forces reservist.

What if I don’t qualify for Self-employment Income Support?

You can read about other financial help you may be eligible for in our article on coronavirus support for small business and the self-employed. We’ve also got a guide to small business grants if you’re looking specifically for funding you don’t have to pay back.

Was this article helpful? Use the comments section to let us know if there are any other SEISS questions you’d like us to find the answers to.

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