Extension of Supports
Finance (Covid-19 and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2021 provides for the extension of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) to 31 December 2021 and the retention of the current enhanced subsidy rates until 30 September 2021. It also provides for the retention of the 30 per cent reduction in turnover or orders threshold and a modification to widen the reference period to assess eligibility for the scheme with effect from 1 July 2021.
The 2021 Act provides for the extension of the specified period in section 485 to 30 September 2021. (The power of the Minister for Finance to, extend the scheme further to 31 December 2021, by order, is not changed.)
The 2021 Act extended the CRSS to 30 September 2021 and also to provide for enhanced restart week payments under the scheme for businesses reopening after a period of restrictions. The level of “restart week” payment a business may claim will depend on the date on which the business reopens (or the “restart week” occurs):
- where the “restart week” occurs between 29 April 2021 to 1 June 2021, the restart payment will be an amount equal to two weeks at double the normal rate of CRSS (subject to a maximum weekly amount of €5,000);
- where the “restart week” occurs between 2 June 2021 to 31 December 2021, the restart payment will be an amount equal to three weeks
- at double the normal rate of CRSS (subject to a maximum weekly amount of €10,000); and
- in all other cases, the standard restart week payment will apply, which is one week at the standard rates of CRSS (subject to a maximum weekly amount of €5,000).
A business may qualify once for either the double restart week payment or triple restart week payment.
The 2021 Act provides for the Business Resumption Support Scheme (“BRSS”), which is a support for businesses that were significantly impacted throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The scheme is available to affected self-employed individuals and companies who carry on a trade or trading activities, the profits from which are chargeable to tax under Case I of Schedule D. It is also available to persons who carry on a trade in partnership, and any trading activity carried on by charities and sporting bodies.
To qualify under the scheme, a business must be able to demonstrate that the turnover derived by the business during the defined specified period of 1 September 2020 to 31 August 2021 will be no more than 25 per cent of the derived turnover when compared to a defined comparative reference period (which is dependent on the date that the business commenced its relevant business activity).
Qualifying taxpayers were able to make a claim for an amount equal to three times the amount as derived by 10 per cent of their average weekly turnover during the reference period up to €20,000 and 5 per cent thereafter, subject to a maximum payment amount of €15,000. Payments made under the scheme will be treated as an advance credit for trading expenses.
Claiming Under Scheme
For businesses established before 26 December 2019 the claim is based on their actual average weekly turnover in the period commencing on 1 January 2019 or, if later, the date on which the person commenced its relevant business activity and ending on 31 December 2019.
For businesses established on or after 26 December 2019, but before 10 March 2020, the claim is based on their actual average weekly turnover in the period from the date that the relevant business activity commenced and ending on 15 March 2020.
For businesses established on or after 10 March 2020, but before 26 August 2020, the claim is based on their actual average weekly turnover derived during the period from the date that the relevant business activity commenced and ending on 31 August 2020.
To make a claim under the scheme, a number of other conditions must be satisfied including that the person has an up to date tax clearance certificate,
- has complied with their Value-Added Tax obligations,
- is not entitled to make a claim for the CRSS scheme in respect of any week that includes 1 September 2021 and
- that the business is actively carrying on its trade and has an intention to continue to do so.
The person must register to claim on the ‘Revenue Online Service’ and make a declaration that they satisfy the conditions to make a claim under this section. Provision is made for the publication of the name of claimants of BRSS on Revenue’s website.
The 2021 Act amended section 46 of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 which deals with rates of tax. Finance Act 2020 provided that the 9 per cent rate of value-added tax applies from 1 November 2020 to 31 December 2021 to
- the supply of restaurant and catering services, guest and holiday accommodation and entertainment services such as admissions to cinemas, theatres, museums, fairgrounds, amusement park and sporting facilities, and also to
- hairdressing and the sale of certain printed matter such as brochures, maps and programmes.
The 2021 amendment extended the application of the 9 per cent VAT rate to these supplies to 31 August 2022.
The 2021 Act provided for warehousing of Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) overpayments received by employers which must be refunded to Revenue. Amounts to be refunded to Revenue are referred to as ‘relevant tax’.
The scheme will have three phases / periods:
- Period 1 (the “Covid-19 restricted trading phase”) will run from 1 July 2020 (the beginning of the “qualifying period” for EWSS) until 31 December 2021;
- Period 2 (“the zero interest phase”) will run from 1 January 2022 until 31 December 2022 during which no interest will be charged on warehoused relevant tax from Period 1; and
- Period 3 (the reduced interest phase) will run from 1 January 2023 until the relevant tax is repaid to Revenue. During Period 3, interest will be charged at 3 per cent per annum on warehoused relevant tax from Period 1.
Warehousing only applies to employers who, as a consequence of Covid-19, are unable to pay their relevant tax and who have filed all relevant PAYE and EWSS returns. All “small and medium enterprises” (SMEs) whose tax affairs are dealt with in Revenue’s Business Division or Personal Division will qualify automatically. Other employers must notify Revenue that they have formed the opinion that they are unable to repay their relevant tax.
Employers were required to continue to file returns and comply with their other tax obligations (such as paying liabilities in a timely fashion) to avail of a reduced interest rate of 3 per cent per annum on repayment of relevant tax in Period 3.
If an employer fails to meet the conditions for debt warehousing, the benefit of the 0 per cent (during Period 2) and 3 per cent per annum (during Period 3) interest rates will no longer apply and interest at a rate of c. 8 per cent per annum will be re-imposed.
Revenue will not issue demands for warehoused debt while the employer complies with the provisions of the section and employers who have “warehoused” debt will obtain tax clearance, provided their other tax obligations have been met.
The 2021 gave effect to the announcement by the Government of the extension of the debt warehousing scheme as part of the Economic Recovery Plan. It amended the warehousing provisions for refunds of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme payments in section 28C Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020.
- The 2021 Act amended the PAYE warehousing provisions in section 991B Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA).
- The 2021 Act amended the income tax warehousing provisions in section 1080B Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (TCA).
- The 2021 Act amended the VAT warehousing provisions in section 114B Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 (VATCA).
- The 2021 Act amended the PRSI warehousing provisions in section 17C Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (SWCA);
The provisions are broadly similar, providing for a fixed end date of 31 December 2021 for “Period 1”, the “Covid-19 restricted trading phase” – liabilities falling due in this period can be warehoused. “Period 2” (the “zero-interest phase” of the scheme, during which interest is charged at 0 per cent on warehoused liabilities) is amended to run from 1 January to 31 December 2022. “Period 3” (the “reduced interest phase”, during which interest is charged at c. 3 per cent per annum on warehoused liabilities) is amended to run from 1 January 2023 until warehoused liabilities have been repaid in full.
The provision of a fixed end date will give clarity and certainty to businesses in relation to their tax liabilities for the remainder of 2021.
The 2021 Act also made a number of consequential amendments which:
- ensure that annual “simplified filers” for PAYE purposes can warehouse liabilities relating to all income tax months from January 2020 to December 2021,
- delete definitions that are no longer required,
- remove the provision to extend Period 2 by Ministerial Order, and
- ensure that income tax liabilities for 2020 or 2021, as appropriate, may be warehoused where an individual estimates her/his total income for the relevant year (2020 or 2021) will be less than 75 per cent of total income for 2019.
Winding down EWSS
The provisions outline the phased exit arrangements for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme. The enhanced rates of wage subsidy will be in operation until 30 November 2021. From 1 December until 28 February 2022 a two-rate structure will be in place, with rates of €151.50 or €203 payable to eligible employers in respect of qualifying employees. From 1 March until 30 April 2022 a flat rate of €100 per qualifying employee will be payable. Employer PRSI will be restored to normal rates for the final two months of the scheme. The final date for the scheme of 30 April 2022 is also provided for.
The scheme is closed to new employers on and from 1 January 2022. Existing claimants who meet the eligibility criteria and the 30 per cent reduction in turnover test at the end of 2021 will remain in the scheme without the requirement for further reviews in the period of January to April 2022.