COVID-19: Ineligible furloughed directors are mostly those receiving a monthly tax-free salary of £719 per month for 2019/20.
This issue relates to claims for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grants being rejected as ineligible. The companies affected are those where the directors have operated a payroll for themselves only and opted to receive a monthly tax and national insurance free salary of £719 per month for 2019/20.
Personal Service Companies (PSC)
CJRS ineligibility seems more likely to affect personal service companies where the payroll is run solely for directors and salaries are pitched at the PT level.
Class 1 National Insurance – Primary Threshold
The Primary Threshold (PT) for Class 1 National Insurance contributions determines the level of salary that will not attract PAYE and NI contributions for both the employee and the employer during the tax year. This threshold was set as £719 per month and £8,632 per annum for 2019/20.
The Primary Threshold has been increased to £792 per month and £9,500 for the 2020-21 tax year.
Directors tax planning strategy
A number of company directors adopt the tax planning strategy of paying themselves the PT salary during the year and either topping up this salary through interim dividends or paying a bonus salary in March 2020 to utilise their annual allowance (£12.500 for 2019-20).
Dividends are taxed at a lower rate after deducting the annual dividend allowance of £2,000, The lower rate of 7.5% assumes that total income doesn’t exceed the basic rate tax threshold of £37,500 because after this the tax on dividends becomes punitive.
Annual Employment allowance
In cases where a limited company has 2 or more directors and qualifies for the annual employment allowance, it may still be ineligible for the CJRS grant if it did not utilise any of it’s annual employment allowance before 19th March 2020.
The annual employment allowance is an annual grant to small companies to defray the cost of employers national insurance contributions up to £3,000 for 2019-20 and £4,000 for 2020-21.
Eligibility anomaly for directors
The CJRS guidelines explains that where employees, including company directors, receive salaries that vary during the year, the average salary for 2019/20 will be used to calculate the 80% claim for furloughed workers.
However, it would appear that the average salary in the guidelines is for the period up to February 2020 and not March 2020 which is the final month in the tax year. Therefore directors who ran a final payroll in March 2020 to utilise their annual allowance are left high and dry.
One argument put forward by commentators is that if these directors aren’t paying their taxes during the year how can they expect the tax payer to bail them out now. Maybe, this was the logic of behind the CJRS ineligibility rule. A fair cop.
Nevertheless, for the optimists this may just be a quirk in the computer software which was developed in the record time of 3-4 week. We are currently waiting for the CJRS support team at HMRC to get back to us on this issue within the next 48 hours. Unfortunately, that was promised on Tuesday 21/04/2020 at 10am.
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