Government support for businesses affected by Omicron

The government has announced additional economic support to help businesses most affected by the Omicron variant of coronavirus:
businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises, and more than £100 million discretionary funding will be made available for local authorities to support other businesses


the government will also cover the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for coronavirus-related absences for small and medium-sized employers across the UK


£30 million further funding will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund, enabling more cultural organisations in England to apply for support during the winter.
There is also continuing financial support. You can find more information by searching for ‘Omicron support for businesses’ on GOV.‌‌UK.
Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
If your client is an employer with fewer than 250 employees, and they’ve paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to their employees for absences linked to coronavirus-related sickness or self-isolation, they could be eligible for support.
They will receive repayments at the relevant standard rate of SSP that they paid to their current or former employees for any eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 21‌‌ December 2021.
Your client will be able to reclaim the costs for up to two weeks of SSP for an employee who takes time off because of coronavirus, regardless of whether they claimed for that employee under the previous scheme.
They will be able to make claims retrospectively from mid-January. You can make claims on behalf of your client.
Full guidance, including eligibility and how to make a claim, will be published on GOV.‌‌‌‌UK in due course. In the meantime, you can find out more information by searching for ‘COVID-19 economic support package’ at GOV.‌‌UK.
Time to Pay arrangements  
If your client is facing difficulty in making a tax payment, HMRC stands ready to support any business impacted by the coronavirus pandemic through our Time to Pay arrangements, where your client can pay what they owe in affordable instalments.
We will consider offering businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in particular the option of a short delay, and payment in instalments, on a case-by-case basis, as part of this. Search GOV.‌‌UK for more information about ‘Time to Pay’.
What else is happening
Corporation Tax and VAT
Earlier in December, we ran a trial reducing the hours on some of our telephony services. This meant we could dedicate the time to work post that has built up over the past year. To test the approach, we closed our Value Added Tax (VAT) (with the exception of the bereavement line), and Corporation Tax (CT) phone lines on 3,‌‌10‌‌ and 17‌‌ ‌‌December.
By dedicating colleagues to post queues, we have been able to focus on delays in processing CT repayments and VAT post which we acknowledge were areas of concern for customers and agents. We made solid progress and worked through 14,000 post items.
Over the coming weeks, we will analyse the data from this trial in more detail and commit to sharing an update in January detailing our findings and next steps. We will not undertake any new shuttering until the end of January at the earliest.
We are pausing most of our webchat for three months from Tuesday‌‌ 4‌‌ January 2022. We’ll use this pause to fully review our services to make sure we are helping our customers in the most effective way possible.
Webchat is effective when we use it to answer simple queries, which supports customers to use our digital services.
Supporting customers with complex queries has proven to be inefficient – for example supporting PAYE, customers with coding queries takes 84% longer via webchat than it does over the phone. Other examples include payments in Child Benefit and Registrations in VAT both taking around 50% longer.
Webchat is most effective when we use it to educate and coach customers in using our digital tools, and we know that this is what we need to build on. We’ll use this pause to fully review our services to make sure we are helping our customers in the most effective way possible.
The following lines will remain open:
Online Services Helpdesk


Self Assessment


National Clearance Hub


Imports and Exports


Debt Management


extra support


support for pandemic-related activity will continue.
We are developing a dashboard to give agents a high-level overview of our service status. We will launch this in mid-January and we will give you more detail in the new year.
What happens next? 
We will continue to keep a close eye on our progress, responding to any issues as we go.
A word about scams  
We’re urging people to be on their guard if they are contacted by someone saying that they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information. HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals will do that.
Tax scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a rebate. Contacts like those should set alarm bells ringing, so take your time and check HMRC scams advice at GOV.‌‌UK.
You can also contact HMRC directly but make sure you use the phone numbers from our contacts details on GOV.‌‌UK.
The National Cyber Security Centre has a helpful guide on how to stay secure online and protect yourself against cyber crime, which you can find on GOV.‌‌UK by searching ‘Cyber Aware’.

Originally published by HMRC