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In the recently released Finance Bill and in the earlier July Stimulus Plan, the Government introduced certain tax and other financial measures which seek to support Irish businesses adversely impacted by COVID-19. One of these schemes, the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (“CRSS”), is specifically aimed at sectors that have been impacted by the restrictions set out in the ‘Living with COVID-19’ plan. The CRSS scheme provides for a weekly cash payment to be made to impacted businesses who meet the qualifying conditions, writes Olivia Lynch, tax partner.

CRSS claims

From 17 November qualifying businesses will be able to make a claim for a payment under the CRSS on Revenue’s Online Services (“ROS”). There is a two-step process for claiming the relief which requires registration for the CRSS followed by submission of a specific claim for relief online via the ROS system.  

Under CRSS, a business can make a claim to Revenue for a cash payment based on the business’ average weekly turnover. Specific rules apply to determine a business’ average weekly turnover depending on when the business commenced. Broadly, the weekly cash payment under CRSS is calculated as the sum of:

  • 10% of the business’ average weekly turnover for 2019 up to a €20,000 limit; and
  • If the business’ average weekly turnover for 2019 exceeded €20,000, 5% of the average weekly turnover for 2019 that exceeded the €20,000 limit.

However, the weekly CRSS payment entitlement is subject to a cap of €5,000 per week.

Example

For example, assume a restaurant business which operated in Dublin had been forced to close under Level 3 restrictions. As at 13 October (the date CRSS was announced) restrictions were in place and expected to stay in place until 1 December, a period of 7 weeks. The 2019 turnover of the restaurant was €225,000 meaning average weekly turnover was €4,326. As turnover is less than €20,000 per week the CRSS payment should equal 10% of weekly turnover being €433. The CRSS payment entitlement is €3,028 (€433 x 7 weeks).

In contrast for a larger business where 2019 turnover was €6 million and average weekly turnover was €115,385 the CRSS payment entitlement would be calculated based on 10% of the first €20,000 of turnover and 5% on the remaining balance totalling €6,769 per week. However, in this case the entitlement would be capped at €5,000 per week.

The payment is treated as a reduction of otherwise tax-deductible trading expenses for tax purposes and therefore, is, effectively, a taxable payment which is subject to income tax or corporation tax. However, for businesses who have incurred significant trading losses in 2020 this should only result in a reduction in the amount of those trading tax losses available for carry forward to future periods rather than triggering an income tax or corporation tax liability.

Start dates

From 17 November, eligible businesses will be able to make a claim for the current COVID-19 restrictions period up to 1 December 2020. The start date for the claim will depend on the level of restrictions which were in place in the area of the country in which the business operated during October, with 13 October (the date that the CRSS scheme was announced) being the earliest start date.

For example, if an eligible business was affected by Level 3 restrictions announced by the Government in early October 2020, it should be eligible for a CRSS payment for a 7-week period from 13 October to 1 December. See example above.

Qualifying conditions

To be entitled to participate in the scheme, the following key qualifying conditions need to be satisfied:

  • Customer access to the business premises must be prohibited or restricted as a direct result of the Government’s public health restrictions;
  • The turnover of the business during the period of the restrictions must not exceed 25% of the business’ normal average weekly turnover;
  • The claimant must intend to carry on the business activity once the relevant public health restrictions have been lifted;
  • The claimant must have complied with all VAT registration and return obligations; and
  • The claimant must hold a valid tax clearance certificate.

Specific rules apply in calculating the 25% limit on turnover. For established businesses the average weekly turnover in 2019 must be compared to turnover during the restricted period. The business must be able to demonstrate that, as a result of having to close the premises to customers for the restricted period, the turnover of the business activity during  the restricted  period will be no more than 25% of average 2019 weekly turnover multiplied by the number of weeks in the claim period.  

For example, a retail business with average weekly turnover of €3,000 in 2019, is closed for a 6 week period during Level 5 restrictions but undertakes online sales during this time earning €2,000 in total over the 6 week period. The €2,000 earned in the 6 week period must be compared to the “normal” expected earnings based on 2019 of €18,000 (€3,000 x6 weeks). The online sales results in 11% of the 2019 average turnover and on this basis the reduction in turnover test should be satisfied.

In calculating the 25% turnover limit, specific rules apply to newly established businesses, businesses which do not operate a calendar year end and in circumstances where different business locations are subject to different COVID-19 restrictions. 

Get in touch

For further information on the CRSS scheme, eligibility and assistance with claims please contact Olivia Lynch, Susan Buggle, or Philip Murphy of our Financial Services Tax team. 

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