Money Matters

SEISS: What you must do to claim the fifth Self Employed Income Support Scheme grant

HMRC will call you if you're eligible for the fifth SEISS grant. We explain what this involves – and what you need to do.

In its 2021 Budget earlier this year, the government announced that a fifth and final Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant would be made available for the period from 1 May 2021 to 30 September 2021.

The online service to claim this will go live from late July 2021, and claims must be submitted by 30 September 2021.

You’ll be invited to make a claim by HMRC, and – as with the earlier fourth SEISS grant – the grant’s available to those who were unable to claim the first three grants because their business was considered too young.

Here’s what’s covered in this article:

How is the fifth SEISS grant different from previous grants?

What’s the process for claiming the fifth SEISS grant?

What will I need to make a claim for the fifth SEISS grant?

How much will I get for the fifth SEISS grant?

How will HMRC contact me about the SEISS grant?

How do I know if a call from HMRC about the SEISS is genuine?

Our separate blogs about the 2021 Coronavirus recovery plan from the government, and the Budget 2021, give details about the SEISS along with all other measures for businesses that were recently announced by the government.

But, in summary, the eligibility was expanded with the fourth and now the fifth grant, and some new checks imposed.

Crucially for those newer to self-employment, it’s no longer the case that only those who were eligible for the original three grants can apply.

You’re eligible for the fifth grant if the following is true:

  • You carried on a trade, in both the tax years 2019/20, and 2020/21.
  • You filed a 2019/20 Self Assessment tax return by 2 March 2021.
  • Your trading profit was no more than £50,000.
  • You trading profit is at least equal to your non-trading profit. This means your trading profit must be at least equal to any money made outside of your business, such as that coming from a part-time job, or a pension.
  • You intend to carry on trading in 2021 and 2022.
  • You “reasonably believe” your trading profits were (or will be) impacted by the coronavirus disruption between 1 May 2021 and 30 September 2021.

HMRC is aware people are claiming the SEISS grants when they shouldn’t – either fraudulently, or in ignorance of the rules and limitations.

In a recent update, it said it’s “tackling serious fraud and criminal attacks” and that it will “will use [its] power to assess overpayments and issue penalties to support these priorities and we will not seek out innocent errors and small mistakes for compliance action”.

To determine eligibility for the new grants, HMRC is contacting potential claimants individually rather than simply inviting applications on the SEISS website from anybody who believes they’re eligible.

The steps will be as follows:

  1. HMRC contact: If you’re eligible based on your tax returns, HMRC will contact you in mid-July to give you a date that you can make your claim from. You might be contacted by email, text message, letter or within the online service.
  2. You apply online: You must still make a claim even though you may have spoken to HMRC and discussed the matter.
  3. Grant received: You’ll receive the grant money around six days after putting in the claim.

In addition to the details discussed in our original SEISS blog, HMRC will need two different figures to work out how much your fifth SEISS grant should be:

  • Your turnover for 12 months between 6 April 2020 and 5 April 2021.
  • Your turnover for the tax years of either 2019/20, or 2018/19.

However, HMRC says it won’t ask for turnover figures if you started trading in 2019/20 and didn’t trade in the years 2018/19, 2017/18, or 2016/17.

HMRC has detailed how it works out the trading profits for SEISS but typically it works out an average based on your previous trading profits, as reported on your tax return.

Assuming you’re eligible, it then works out how much your turnover dropped based on the two turnover figures mentioned above.

  • If your turnover has dropped by 30% or more, you’ll get an SEISS grant of 80% of three months’ average trading profits, based on a maximum of £7,500.
  • If your turnover has dropped by less than 30%, you can claim an SEISS grant of 30% of three months’ average trading profits, based on a maximum of £2,850.

HMRC has confirmed to Sage that it will phone you and use the number it has on record for you.

Therefore, you may wish to log in to your Self Assessment, personal tax account, or Government Gateway account to ensure this number is up to date.

Alternatively, you can phone 0800 024 1222 to let HMRC know the number to use.

If your accountant or tax agent handles Self Assessment for you, HMRC may contact them and request your number so they can speak to you directly. The accountant or tax agent is not able to act on your behalf to determine eligibility.

HMRC has also confirmed to Sage that it will try three times to call you. If you don’t answer, it will write to you a second time and ask if you want to proceed with the SEISS eligibility checks.

It adds that claimants will have until the end of the application window for the fifth grant to provide the details discussed above.

So, even if you miss the calls, you should still be able to establish your eligibility.

Put simply, it’s difficult if not impossible to do so. HMRC provides a list of genuine HMRC contacts by which you can check details, so you know what to expect.

Nonetheless, the call from HMRC has several details in common with the social engineering techniques used by scam callers:

  • HMRC has confirmed to Sage that the call will appear to be from a withheld number on your phone. Even if the number identifies itself as being from HMRC in some way, the call cannot be trusted because this is easily faked by scammers.
  • The caller may attempt to authenticate themselves by reciting personal details about you that you might feel a stranger simply wouldn’t know. However, hacks of major institutions mean significant personal details about many UK citizens are available online. This includes names, addresses, dates of birth, bank account details, security questions such as your mother’s maiden name, and even National Insurance numbers.
  • HMRC says the following, which again follows the patterns of some scammers: “When we call, we’ll ask for proof of identity and evidence of trade in the form of bank statements.” Providing these details over the phone to a stranger presents a clear security risk in the first instance, but demanding seemingly trivial details is another trick used by scammers to demonstrate authenticity.
  • HMRC might not inform your accountant or tax agent of the call, so you won’t be able to contact them to confirm the call. For example, AccountingWeb has reportedthat HMRC had emailed taxpayers about the SEISS claim, but did not copy their accountants on the email.
  • Although your accountant has more experience dealing with HMRC and therefore is better equipped to spot scam calls, as mentioned above, it’s not possible to ask HMRC to speak to them on your behalf. HMRC wants to speak to you directly.

Often a recommended practice for calls of this nature is to take the operative’s name and office location, then terminate the call.

You should then look online or in official documentation for a contact number you can use to call them back, ensuring you only use a phone number listed on the official website.

And, if possible, call them back using a different phone, or only after you have also received a genuine call to the phone that HMRC called.

But even this is not 100% safe.

If a landline is used, scammers have been known to keep the line open when you hang up. They then fake the dialling tone and call process, before resuming the scam. However, this is impossible with mobile phone calls.

You also don’t know when the call from HMRC will arrive, so effectively will have to answer all calls from withheld numbers for the foreseeable future until you’re sure your eligibility has been confirmed.

Final thoughts

It’s an understatement to say that we’ve been through unusual times recently, and contacting people in this way is an unusual measure for HMRC to take.

However, being aware of the above and anticipating the call will help ease the process for those who are self-employed, and the call itself is likely to be quick and simple to complete.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in April 2021 and has been updated for relevance.

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