Relaxed laws and restrictions
The UK Government has relaxed some trading laws in response to the outbreak of coronavirus. These include:
Plastic bag charge
The 5p plastic bag charge for online deliveries to speed up hygienic food distribution during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. The plastic bag charge was introduced in England in October 2015 to reduce plastic waste. This waiver was announced on Saturday, March 21, and is one in a series of measures being enforced by the UK Government to help retailers stay stocked amid panic buying concerns.
Contactless card limit
From April 1, some shops will increase their contactless card limit from £30 maximum spend to £45. It will be rolled out across the UK, but some shops may take longer to implement the new limit – including supermarkets which are currently operating at peak capacity. The move is to further reduce the need for physical contact by shoppers entering their pin numbers on card machines.
Change of business property use
Planning rules have been relaxed so pubs, cafes and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak. Usually, planning permission is required for businesses to carry out a change of use to a hot food takeaway. The Government has confirmed regulations will be relaxed to enable businesses to deliver this service without a planning application. The measures will help support businesses and help people who need to self-isolate, as well as vulnerable groups and older people who have been strongly advised to avoid social contact outside their homes to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The measures will apply to hot food and drinks. Serving of alcoholic drinks will continue to be subject to existing licensing laws. Businesses will be required to tell the local planning authority when the new use begins and ends.
Rules of annual leave
The Government has granted car owners a six-month exemption from MOT testing. However, it won’t come in until Monday, March 30, which means vehicles due an MOT before then must still take it. The exemption “will enable vital services such as deliveries to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people get essential food and medicine,” the Government said. The exemption will apply to cars, motorcycles and vans, but the government warned that vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition. Garages will remain open for essential repair work while drivers will face prosecution if they’re caught driving unsafe vehicles.
Gender pay gap deadlines
The Government has suspended the gender pay gap deadlines for this reporting year (2019/20). The decision means there will be no expectation on employers to report their data.
Night-time deliveries in built up areas are to be allowed and the frequency of deliveries will be increased to counter supply chain disruption amid stockpiling concerns. Delivery lorries cannot usually operate in built-up areas overnight to avoid disturbing local residents. However, the temporary measures are expected to boost supply chains and prevent the need for stockpiling during the crisis.
Deferral of VAT payments
VAT payments will be deferred to support businesses with cash flow during the Covid-19 pandemic. All businesses with a UK VAT registration have the option to defer payments de from March 20 to June 3. Businesses have until March 31, 2021, to pay any VAT deferred as a result of this decision. Businesses do not need to inform HMRC if they wish to defer payment. They can opt in to the deferral simply by not making VAT payments due in this period. Businesses who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. This can be done online if they are registered with online banking. They should do so in sufficient time so that HMRC does not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of their VAT return. For more information click here
Making Tax Digital for VAT
All businesses now have until their first VAT return period starting on or after April 1, 2021 to put digital links in place. It is important for businesses to note that despite this relaxation they still need to ensure they are keeping digital records, submitting VAT returns via an API enabled software and maintaining all digital links they currently have in place. HMRC has said it is committed to help businesses facing unprecedented challenges.
Last updated: 08.04.2020