Universal Credit – common doubts and inconsistencies
Hope that everyone reading this, and their families, are safe and well.
It’s very well-known by now that, unfortunately, a large number of creative & cultural industry practitioners are ‘falling between the cracks’ in the various government support schemes – furlough, SEISS etc.
Accounting4Actors are helping where we can with free advice for anyone in the industry (sportspeople too) and many people have already discovered that, if they aren’t entitled to anything from the new schemes, they may be eligible for Universal Credit (a government benefit payment for people with no or low income).
We’ve been dealing with lots of queries about Universal Credit and we summarise some of the most common questions which we’ve answered.
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 or email firstname.lastname@example.org – we are not charging for any advice on matters to do with the disruption.
If you are self-employed and have savings which you are keeping in order to meet a tax payment that you know is coming down the line – you should do! – then DWP recently clarified that these should NOT count as savings for the purposes of reducing UC – so you don’t need to declare them.
If you have income from a rental property, this probably will count as income – but make sure you are telling your UC advisor the ‘net’ figure of income that you get, ie what remains after you have deducted all your costs in relation to the rental – eg any mortgage you have on the property, ground rent, agents’ fees, utilities, repair costs etc.
UC periods of assessment are supposed to work on the time you were paid for work, not the time that you actually did the work – but this is being applied very inconsistently. When asked to say when you have received money for work, you should clarify this with your advisor – ask precisely whether they mean the date on which the money was paid into your bank account, or the (usually) earlier date on which you did the work to which it relates. We’ve heard of different advisors giving different answers.
If you have nothing coming in during April and May, and you expect to receive something from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme when it makes its first payments in June, then you *are* entitled to UC for April and May and you will *not* have to pay it back afterwards (unless a narrow range of circumstances apply to you).
We notice that some of the ‘small print’ around UC rules is being applied more generously than before. This might be happening randomly, because advisors are much busier than they were before; or it might be a deliberate policy on the part of some or all DWP managers and offices. Again, if you are in any doubt about the answer to any particular question, ask your advisor. It costs you nothing to do this, and you might get a more beneficial answer than you (or we) were expecting.
However, that point does not include any relaxation to the “advance payment” rules. That rule – unfair and hard-to-understand though it is – will not be relaxed. If you accept an “advance payment” as soon as you apply for UC, you should expect that the total value of it *will* be deducted from future UC payments.
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.
Please visit www.accounting4actors.co.uk and find out about tax accounting for creative and cultural industry professionals, actors’ tax returns, and all accounting for creatives.