Government tweaks eligibility criteria for new Covid business support scheme

Bill gives legal effect to tax measures announced by Donohoe on budget day

The Finance Bill also provides for the reduced VAT rate for the hospitality and tourism sector from 13.5 per cent to 9 per cent, which comes into effect next month. Photograph: Getty Images

The Finance Bill also provides for the reduced VAT rate for the hospitality and tourism sector from 13.5 per cent to 9 per cent, which comes into effect next month. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Government has broadened the eligibility criteria for its new Covid-19 business support scheme.

The Covid Restrictions Subsidy Scheme announced on budget day provides for grants of up to €5,000 a week to businesses who have been forced to close or operate at a significantly curtailed level because of the current restrictions.

According to the original announcement, qualifying businesses would have had to prove they had lost at least 80 per cent of turnover relative to the same period last year.

However, this threshold has now been reduced to 75 per cent in bid to support more businesses.

Details of how the scheme will operate were contained in the Finance Bill, published on Thursday by the Department of Finance.

The relief, which will run from October 13th to March 31st, is primarily aimed at businesses in the hard-hit consumer-facing sectors of the economy, such as hospitality.

It will operate as a cash payment equal to 10 per cent of the average weekly value of the 2019 business’s turnover up to €20,000 and 5 per cent thereafter, subject to a maximum weekly payment of €5,000.

“The Covid Restrictions Support Scheme will provide much needed support to businesses that have had to close or significantly reduce trading as a result of the recent move to Level 5 throughout the country,” Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said.

“We understand the difficulties businesses and individuals are facing and are determined to do whatever we can to ensure we emerge as a stronger and more resilient society, in the period ahead,” he said.

Finance Bill 2020, which gives legal effect to the measures contained in the budget, runs to 74 sections and over 100 pages. It was approved by the Cabinet earlier this week.

Carbon tax

It provides for the gradual increase in carbon tax from €26 to €100 per tonne of CO2 over 10 years as laid out in the Coalition’s programme for government.

The tax will be increased by €7.50 per tonne next year, from €26 to €33.50, and €7.50 a year thereafter with the funds ringfenced to help those at risk of fuel poverty.

The Bill also makes provision for the transition of Ireland’s CO2- based vehicle registration and motor tax regimes to the new more robust Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure emissions test from January 2021.

“As a result, our VRT regime will be based on emissions performance levels which are much closer to real world performance levels than is currently the case,” the department said.

The Bill also provides for the reduced VAT rate for the hospitality and tourism sector from 13.5 per cent to 9 per cent, which comes into effect next month.

“This will apply to catering and restaurant supplies, tourist accommodation, cinemas, theatres, museums, historic houses, open farms, amusement parks, certain printed matter and hairdressing,” the department said.

There were other minor changes to the code including a provision for an extension of the tax warehousing scheme to include excess Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme payments received by an employer which are due to be repaid to Revenue.

“The Covid-19 pandemic continues to present us with unprecedented economic and social challenges,” Mr Donohoe said.

“This Government has continually restated its commitment to supporting the economy and society more broadly, particularly those sectors most negatively impacted by Covid-19 restrictions and most in need of additional support,” he added.