As HMRC contacts taxpayers who may be eligible for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and the application portal opens, we have summarised how the process works
Emails, SMS messages and letters have been sent to taxpayers who HMRC thinks may be entitled to claim an SEISS grant. These were sent during the week beginning 4 May 2020, some letters may not have been received until the following week.
Each taxpayer received one form of contact:
where HMRC holds an email address it used that;
SMS was used where HMRC holds a mobile number, but not an email address; and
a letter was sent where HMRC holds neither.
Note that to guard against fraud the emails and SMS messages from HMRC do not include active links. If a taxpayer receives an email or SMS purporting to come HMRC which includes an active link, that email or SMS is a scam.
This initial contact explained what the taxpayer needs to do to be ready to claim when the claims portal opens.
HMRC contacted all those who may be eligible, but not all recipients will in fact be eligible. HMRC has selected the cases based on the information in the self assessment tax returns filed by the taxpayers and has carried out the necessary calculations and eligibility checks based on those figures. However, HMRC does not necessarily know whether the taxpayer meets the following conditions of the scheme:
traded in the tax year 2019/20;
intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020/21; and
carry on a trade which has been adversely affected by coronavirus.
HMRC is providing an eligibility checker to allow taxpayers to check whether HMRC believes they may be eligible for a grant.
The eligibility checker is available on gov.uk and is open to anyone to use, not just those who have been contacted by HMRC. click link: checker
The taxpayer enters their self assessment UTR and national insurance number and the checker confirms whether HMRC believes they may be eligible. The taxpayer does not need to enter any information about their income. The checker does not require the taxpayer to log in to their government gateway account but, in the background, it looks at the tax return information held on HMRC’s system to provide a result. The checker does not give any information about the amount of grant available.
The checker tells potentially eligible taxpayers when they can make a claim (the dates and times are randomly allocated by HMRC to manage demand on the system). The taxpayer is then presented with an option to either log in to their government gateway account or to create one. They are then asked to confirm or provide their contact details including email address.
The eligibility checker can be used by agents who know their client’s self assessment UTR and national insurance number.
Creating a government gateway ID
Taxpayers who already have a government gateway ID which gives access to HMRC’s self assessment services will be able to use that ID when applying for their SEISS grant.
Those who do not have a government gateway ID are prompted to create one when they use the eligibility checker and, if they do not do so, as the first step of the application stage. Our advice is that at the eligibility checker stage is the preferred option to avoid delays.
When creating an ID through the SEISS service, the taxpayer is asked to verify their identity by providing details from their driving licence photocard or their UK passport. Taxpayers without either of these documents will be asked for a piece of financial information, for example, the date they set up a mobile phone contract.
When a government gateway ID is created as part of the SEISS service there is no requirement for an authentication code (PIN) to be sent in the post.
Taxpayers who need to create a government gateway ID to claim an SEISS grant are advised to do so through the SEISS service, rather than through any other route on gov.uk, to ensure the correct type of ID is set up and to avoid the need for an authentication code in the post.
How to apply
Applications open to taxpayers on a staged basis between 13 and 18 May, with the portal opening on different days for different taxpayers. HMRC is sending reminder emails to taxpayers who have provided an email address (when using the eligibility checker or previously) to confirm when the portal is open for them or may send an SMS message. Taxpayers can also use the eligibility checker at any time to check whether the application portal is now open for them.
Taxpayers then log in to their government gateway account (or select the option to create an account) to complete the application process. They are presented with a calculation of the amount of the grant and are asked to:
read and accept the eligibility criteria;
complete declarations, including to confirm that the business has been adversely affected by coronavirus; and
supply the bank account details into which they would like the grant to be paid.
The taxpayer does not need to provide any information about their income – the calculations are all done by HMRC based on the tax returns submitted. HMRC will check the claim and expects to make payments by 25 May 2020 or within six working days of the application being submitted.
There is, at the moment, no deadline by which claims must be submitted.
USING YOUR AGENT
Following confirmation of the application process for SEISS, ICAS, along with other bodies had pressed HMRC for agents to be included in the process and recognises that members will be “very disappointed” that they are unable to make claims for their clients.
We understand that HMRC considered the issue of agent access, but the need to make payments as soon as possible resulted in HMRC taking the decision that claims would have to be made by the taxpayer only. However, and unlike the job retention scheme, HMRC will be making the calculations for the claims rather than the taxpayer or their agent, with the result that claiming under the scheme should be much simpler.
Agents still have a potentially important role in helping their clients with SEISS. Agents can use the newly built eligibility checker on behalf of their clients and can also request a review if the checker gives a ‘not eligible’ result when the agent thinks that they should be eligible. Clients may also want help with understanding the calculation.
We advise against clients setting up a new government gateway ID in advance of making an application, but instead doing so as the first step in the application process. This will ensure that the correct type of credentials are set up and avoids the need to wait for an authorisation code in the post (that this requirement is suspended for those that set up government gateway credentials as part of the SEISS service).
HMRC will be providing a telephone-based application service for the digitally excluded, further details are awaited.
HMRC has advised that agents should not use client credentials to apply for grants on behalf of clients and that doing so may trigger HMRC fraud checks and delay payment of the grant.