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17 April 2020updated 26 Jul 2021 7:29am

More than 150,000 self-employed not covered by government support scheme

By Nicu Calcea

Some 151,000 started self-employment after March 2019, new data has revealed – meaning they are not eligible for help under the government’s Covid-19 support scheme.

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on March 20 that the state would cover 80 per cent of wages – up to a maximum of £2,500 a month – if company employees were put on furlough.

The scheme was then extended to allow self-employed people to claim a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of their monthly profits, with a similar limit of £2,500 a month.

There are several criteria for claiming the grant, however – including that a self-employed person must have submitted a tax return for the 2018-2019 tax year by April 2019. That means those who became self-employed after that date would not be eligible for support, under current rules.

New analysis by the Office for National Statistics estimates the number of self-employed people in the UK to be more than five million, or around 15 per cent of the working population. Out of those, 151,000 started self-employment after March 2019 – meaning they are not eligible for the government grant.

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As the estimates are based on data collected from January to December 2019, they don’t include the people who might have become self-employed since the start of this year and would also miss out on the scheme. In addition to having submitted tax forms by April 2019, claimants need to prove that they have been self-employed for the past year and will continue to be in the future, and that the coronavirus pandemic has affected their income.