On 24 March the Irish Government introduced a suite of social and economic measures to support businesses and employees during the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency. We know our clients will be working extremely hard to contain the disruption and we will endeavour to keep you informed of the latest developments as they happen.
Please see below for information relating to the supports available to help you navigate this crisis.
Employers and employees
- COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme
- COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
- COVID-19 Illness Benefit
- The Government’s general information page for employers and employees.
- Employees of businesses that need to reduce hours or days worked can avail of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Short-time Work Support scheme.
- Redundancy: Employers must be vigilant in their understanding of the legal concerns under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2014 and may need to seek professional legal advice in certain circumstances.
Banking and other financial supports
All banks have announced that they will offer flexibility to their customers, and they may be able to provide payment holidays or emergency working capital facilities where required.
In addition, the following government facilities have been recommended as supports for working capital constraints:
- Credit Guarantee Scheme
- Strategic Banking Corporation Ireland (SBCI) Working Capital
- The €200m SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme for eligible businesses will be available within the next week. Maximum loan size will be €1.5 million (first €500,000 unsecured) and the maximum interest rate will be 4%. The SCBI is currently working towards bringing this scheme to market as soon as possible. The SBCI website will be updated on a regular basis to update on scheme launch.
- Enterprise Ireland Business Support Loans
- A €200m Package for Enterprise Supports including a Rescue and Restructuring Scheme is available through Enterprise Ireland for vulnerable but viable firms that need to restructure or transform their business. Details of this support is being finalised and further updates will be available in the coming days.
- Enterprise Ireland Finance in Focus Grant
- Grants of €7,200 will be available to Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta clients that want to access consultancy support to undertake immediate finance reviews. Application forms are available on the Enterprise Ireland website.
- Microfinance Ireland
- Microenterprises (turnover less than €2m) can access COVID-19 loans of up to €50,000 from MicroFinance Ireland. Loans are available at an interest rate of between 6.8% and 7.8% and businesses can apply through their Local Enterprise Office or directly on the MicroFinance Ireland website.
Revenue has provided the following updated advice which will further assist businesses that are experiencing trading difficulties caused by the impacts of COVID-19.
- Information for SMEs
- Tax returns: businesses experiencing temporary cash flow difficulties should continue to send in tax returns on time.
- Application of interest: the application of interest on late payments is suspended for January/February VAT and both February and March PAYE (Employers) liabilities.
- Debt enforcement: All debt enforcement activity is suspended until further notice.
- Tax clearance: current tax clearance status will remain in place for all businesses over the coming months.
- Information for subcontractors
- RCT (Relevant Contract Tax): the RCT rate review scheduled to take place in March 2020 is suspended. This process assesses the current compliance position of each subcontractor in the eRCT system and determines their correct RCT deduction rate, i.e. 0%, 20% or 35%. As this process may result in a subcontractor’s RCT rate increasing due to changes in their compliance position, the review is suspended.
- Subcontractors and agents are reminded that RCT rate reviews can be self-managed in ROS. Subcontractors can check if their rate should be lower and can then ‘self-review’ to get that lower deduction rate.
- Information on importing goods
- Customs: critical pharmaceutical products and medicines will be given a customs ‘green routing’ to facilitate uninterrupted importation and supply.
- Businesses, other than SMEs, who are experiencing temporary cash flow or trading difficulties should contact the Collector-General’s office on (01) 7383663. Alternatively, these businesses can engage directly with their branch contacts in Revenue’s Large Corporates Division or Medium Enterprises Division.
Tax relief on home expenses
- Employees working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may be entitled to tax relief. The relief is available in respect of expenses incurred while working from home such as electricity, heating and broadband.
- An employer can make a payment of €3.20 per day to employees to cover costs such as light and heat, home phone, broadband. This is known as the e-worker allowance. However, there is no obligation on employers to make this payment.
- Revenue has issued updated guidance on the e-worker allowance and has confirmed that this may be paid to employees working from home due to the current COVID-19 situation. See Revenue guidance for reference.
- Where an employer does not pay the e-worker allowance, an employee may make a claim directly to Revenue in relation to home costs (light and heat, phone, broadband). Employees can make such claims by applying directly to Revenue.
- In addition, no benefit in kind arises where employers provide equipment to employees such as laptop, printer, phone to facilitate working remotely.
Communication is vitally important during this crisis. It is important to stay connected to employees, customers and suppliers. Make use of the various social media platforms to inform your contacts about major changes such as temporary closures and alternative arrangements. Consider using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram in order to deliver messages quickly and to a wide audience.
For remote working, there is a wide variety of technology solutions to enable you to keep in close contact with your clients and employees - we have outlined some of the most widely-used options here.
As the days and weeks progress, make sure to contact key stakeholders directly by phone, letter or email as you judge best. We should all be aware that this time is likely to be stressful for many of those we work with. Many people will be impacted in ways we could not have expected.
Clients should make sure to check their insurance policies for coverage related to Business Interruption Cover, or Credit Insurance. It is important to consider the implications of any exclusions for force majeure which may or may not apply to the current pandemic and responses from governments.
Preparation for the eventual recovery is very important. We are confident that this will come soon, and we should all be ready for it. Evidence from China and Singapore is showing us that business activity will pick up as quickly as it fell away. Business confidence has proven to be quite resilient in these countries. Supply chains have been interrupted to a considerable extent, and may take some time to be re-established, which emphasises the need for regular communications with key stakeholders.
Although our physical offices are now closed and we are working remotely, Walsh O’Brien Harnett remains open for business, and we are keen to assist our clients to navigate these choppy waters. Remote-working measures are in place for all staff to ensure continuity of service. The partners continue to be available via email and telephone as required, and encourage you to make contact. We will update this page with the latest information as and when it becomes available.