Financial Advice for Self-employed Performers During COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our industry and many of us will have seen our incomes affected as a result. Alistair Bambridge from Bambridge Accountants explains what financial aid and relief schemes are available for self-employed actors.

Last updated on Wednesday 13 May 2020.

Over 90% of working actors are reporting upcoming jobs being either rescheduled or cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many self-employed actors have been left with a large income deficit. We've compiled the different government relief schemes and financial aid available in an effort to support self-employed performers through this difficult time. 

Self-employed Income Support Scheme

If you're self-employed and your business has been impacted by COVID-19 then you may be eligible for a grant from the government. The scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months (March, April and May), and is capped at £7,500 altogether. It will be paid within six days of your application.

Find out if you're eligible and make a claim.

Unfortunately, you won't be eligible if you started your business from early April last year or if you pay yourself with dividends from a limited company.

Mortgage Holiday and Eviction Protection 

At the early stages of the UK COVID-19 outbreak, the government announced ‘Mortgage Holidays’ and ‘Eviction Protection’, which are available to anyone who has been financially affected by the pandemic. This will not only work to protect homes from being lost but also bring down the overall monthly outgoings so there is less demand for a higher income. Many self-employed actors have reviewed the scheme as ‘extremely helpful’. 

Read guidance on the eviction protection measures for England, Scotland and Wales.

Tax Return Payment Delay

The government has delayed tax payments through the self-employed assessment system by six months. This will help lessen monthly outgoings further. 

At the time of writing, the next income tax bill will be due in July 2020 until January 2021. It is likely that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect income into the July period; the start date will be further pushed back.

Find the latest tax return information on GOV.UK

Business Insurance 

It may be possible to claim some loss of income back on business insurance. Successful COVID-19 related claims will depend on the detail outlined in your insurance policy, and the claim itself. 

Here’s a list of some of the most common policies that may cover COVID-19 related claims:

  • Business Interruption Insurance
  • Public Liability Insurance
  • Employers’ Liability Insurance

It is important to note that even if a self-employed actor has one of the insurance policies listed above, COVID-19 related issues still might not be covered. This is due to:

  • Some insurance policies list the specific diseases that can be claimed for. The recent emergence of COVID-19 means that most - if not all - of these policies will not list COVID-19 as a claimable illness.
  • Other insurance policies may allow a COVID-19 claim but in order for the claim to be successful, there must have been an outbreak of the illness at the business premises or within a proximity of the business premises. 

Most insurance companies are not allowing COVID-19 cover to be added to insurance policies going forward. 

Universal Credit 

Universal Credit is a Government-funded payment towards your living costs. The amount is usually available to those who have low income or are out of work. This is often the first port-of-call for self-employed actors that have lost work and are in need of financial support. 

Apply for Universal Credit online or by telephone. 

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

ESA is financial aid for those with a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work. ‘New style’ ESA may be claimable for self-employed actors who have paid enough National Insurance Contributions (NIC) in the last two to three years.

If you have a private pension worth more than £85 per week the amount of ESA you can receive may be affected.  

Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

The SEISS is available to those who are self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to COVID-19. In order to receive the amount self-employed actors must have:

  • Filed a 2018-19 tax return
  • Annual profits below £50,000 on average over the last three years 
  • Still be registered as self-employed
  • More than half total income comes from being self-employed

The maximum amount claimable is £2,500 per person, per month. The grant will be fully taxable and so will be included on the 2020-21 tax return as income. A working example of this in practice shows that, if a person is to receive £2,500, of the credit, per month for three months, the total taxable income would be £7,500.

Read more about the scheme and how it works.

Statutory Sick Pay relief

For acting and stage business owners, it may be an option to claim SSP relief. This is available to businesses with less than 250 employees and allows businesses paying its employees' Statutory Sick Pay to be refunded two weeks of SSP per eligible employee. 

Benefits Calculator 

The Turn2Us charity offers a benefits calculator on its website to help work out some of the benefits you may be entitled to. This does not take into account non-means tested benefits and contributor benefits.

Keep updated with the latest COVID-19 advice, support and guidance for our members or take a look at our guide to performing arts charities who can offer support.

Published Wednesday 6 May 2020. 

Written by Alistair Bambridge, partner at Bambride Accountants, a boutique accountancy firm that understands the complexities of the creative industry and specialises in US and UK taxation for creative professionals.

Image by Northfolk via Unsplash.