One of the most valuable - and immediate - potential sources of short term finance for struggling small businesses is HM Revenue & Customs' "Time to Pay".
All businesses and self-employed people in financial difficulties who have outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible for support.
If you have outstanding tax liabilities or are worried you may miss your next tax payment, the number to call is 0800 024 1222 (as of 26 March).
Our tips and suggestions
1. Make sure the right person fields the call
If you are not the taxpayer - for example if you are phoning on behalf of a company you work for, to speak about the company's tax liabilities - HMRC will probably not speak with you unless you have "Agent Authorisation" in place.
It is annoying in the extreme to wait on the phone for an hour before HMRC answer, only to be told that they can't talk to you.
So - get yourself agent authorisation, or make sure that, when they finally answer, someone with the appropriate authority can continue the call. In a company this would normally be a director or company secretary. Company directors do not need agent authorisation.
2. Be prepared to be on the line a while
From what we are hearing it is taking anything between half an hour and one and a half hours to get through - even though HMRC say they have added 2,000 extra staff to the call centre.
3. Have your tax reference number(s) to hand when you call
Depending on the tax(es) you are phoning about, this may include:
- Corporation tax UTR
- VAT registration number
- PAYE Accounts Office Reference Number
- Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
Time to pay can apply to all the above taxes.
4. If there are no tax liabilities outstanding on their records, they'll probably just ask you to call back
This is a difficult one as you might (for example) want to call them about your next VAT liability, having just paid the last one. To be honest this is just really annoying, because the last thing you probably want to do right now is waste time repeatedly phoning HMRC.
Consequently we are advocating the "belt and braces" approach which means you should also probably...
5. Write to HMRC as well, asking for deferral and specifying the taxes and tax periods you want deferred.
Again, quoting the relevant tax reference numbers will be help. If you don't have a record of any of those, ask your accountants who should do.
- Income Tax and CGT - HM Revenue & Customs, BX9 1AS
- Corporation Tax - HM Revenue & Customs, Corporation Tax Services, BX9 1AX
- PAYE - PT Operations NE England, HM Revenue & Customs, BX9 1BX
- VAT - HM Revenue & Customs, Alexander House, 21 Victoria Ave, Southend on Sea, SS99 1BD
6. Remember, Time to Pay is only a deferral - it is not a grant
The tax will still ultimately be payable. Time to Pay merely delays the payment date - it does not cancel the tax due.
Helpfully, though, HMRC have indicated that interest and penalties may not be charged in respect of deferrals associated with Covid-19. You should of course confirm the specifics of any agreement you reach directly with HMRC - or get your accountant to do that for you.
Please feel welcome to share your insights and experience of getting "Time to Pay" - and contact us straight away if we can be of any help.