Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – appeals and challenges
We’re a week into applications and payments under the SEISS, and a fair bit more is clearer than it was.
The scheme is, in our opinion and as we’ve said before, not as fair as it should be. In particular, three groups of people have missed out inequitably:
Those who had substantially more income in 2019/20 than in earlier years
Those who have missed the “50%” qualification for marginal or technical reasons
Those who are eligible under the “50%” qualification in 18/19 only, but who have all three years used to make the actual calculation, leaving them with less grant than if only 18/19 were used for the qualification.
HMRC say that those who were declared ineligible, or who disagree with the amount they have been awarded, can appeal by phone, online chat or email by 31 May.
There were some early problems with the online Eligibility Checker, which HMRC rushed out before it was ready. It told a large number of people that they were not eligible when in fact they were – an unnecessary addition to people’s already-substantial worries. That should have been sorted out by now, but if you were told you were ineligible by the Checker early in May and you went no further, you should now log into your HMRC account anyway and make a full application just in case.
What about people who have made full applications and been rejected, or received a lower amount than they expected?
There is only a tiny number of people who have an appeal, within HMRC’s narrow terms, which we think will be allowed. Most people who are in one of the 3 situations I described above will not succeed on appeal, because the problem is that the rules are unfair, rather than that HMRC have got the rules and calculations wrong – they (mostly) have not. There is no harm in appealing if you are in this position – but you will not succeed.
Your time is probably better spent supporting one of the many wider challenges to the system which are being mounted by a number of professional and public bodies. If there is to be a change to the rules, it seems more likely now that a) it will be agreed for political reasons rather than accounting technicalities, and b) it will apply to future rounds rather than the round which is now being completed. Having said that, I still think it is possible that there will be a legal challenge against the government regarding the present round – a test-case on one or more of the 3 grounds I mentioned above; and if there is we and others will of course publicise it widely.
Some of the main ways of adding your weight to existing campaigns are:
The Association for Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed have sent a petition to the government in challenge to the rules. The petition is now closed, but you can still download their open letter to the government and send a personal copy to your MP: https://www.ipse.co.uk/ipse-news/news-listing/freelancer-johnson-for-emergency-coronavirus-fund.html
A petition here https://www.change.org/p/self-employed-to-access-full-pay-through-hmrc-through-this-crisis-self-employed-to-access-full-pay-through-hmrc-earnings-through-this-crisis has nearly 1m signatures
Several trade unions including Equity are lobbying the government hard about this, so if you are a member, ensure you stay in touch with them about it.
We are necessarily only making short and general points here – if you are in any doubt about your particular circumstances, call us for free advice on 08000 487626, message us on Instagram @accounting4actors or email firstname.lastname@example.org – we are not charging for any advice on matters to do with the disruption.
Please get in touch with us if you have any questions at all. We’ll chat to you about your affairs with no obligation on you whatsoever.
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