A House of Commons Treasury Committee is calling on ministers to plug gaps in government schemes designed to support people during the coronavirus crisis.
The committee wants ministers to do “whatever it takes” to help the one million or so people, including a high number of tenants and landlords, left behind by the existing system.
The Treasury said the schemes protected millions of jobs and livelihoods, but MPs pointed out that hundreds of thousands of workers, including freelancers and recent employees, are among those who cannot access support, leaving them facing serious financial hardship through no fault of their own.
“The Treasury's interventions have been welcomed by many but rolling out financial support at pace and scale has inevitably resulted in some hard edges in policy design and some critical gaps in provision,” the committee said.
“The government must assist these people if it is to completely fulfil its promise to do whatever it takes to protect people from the economic impact of coronavirus.”
Tax and advisory firm Blick Rothenberg is among those calling for more support for “left behinds” who are not currently eligible for either of the government’s coronavirus support schemes for employees and the self-employed, insisting that it should be adopted without delay.
Robert Salter, a director at the company, commented: “There are still too many people falling through the gaps, around one million getting no support whatsoever.
“Whilst credit should be given to the government for having developed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), it was always clear that these schemes were designed for ‘simplicity’ and ‘administrative ease’ rather than for fairness.
“The Treasury Committee’s push to have the government widen these schemes to those workers who were previously left behind should be welcomed by all those who appreciate fairness and justice in the tax and benefits systems.”
He added: “The committee recommends extending government support to groups such as those employees who started [or were due to start], employment in March 2020 or afterwards, those workers who genuinely go from short-term engagement to short-term engagement, such as free contract workers, personal service company directors who pay themselves via dividends rather than salary, and those self-employed individuals who started self-employment in 2019/20, or in some cases part way through the 2018/19 tax year.”
Established, freelance contractors who have been working for a number of employers on a contract-by-contract basis would usually have submitted tax returns in previous years. Similarly, established directors of Personal Service Companies would have a similar tax history and would have been filing tax returns to report their dividend income in previous years.
“As such, many of the ‘left behinds’ are, from a Revenue data and information perspective, in exactly the same position as other individuals already eligible for CJRS and SEISS support,” Salter added.
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