Universal Credit for businesses owners affected by coronavirus

Universal Credit could support you if your business has been affected by the coronavirus crisis. In this guide, we'll take a look at what it is and if you could be eligible for it.

14 April 2020

This information is based on what's provided on the gov website as of 15 April 2020. We are working hard to ensure that all content on our site is up to date, and will make sure that this page is updated when more information is available.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a monthly benefit payment for living costs. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has suspended the minimum income requirement to apply, meaning applications will be reviewed no matter what you're earning. In addition to this, an additional £1,000 a year has been added to the standard allowance for the next 12 months.

How do I apply?

In order to apply for Universal Credit, follow these steps:

Check if you're eligible

Universal Credit eligibility can be difficult to understand and it might be useful to use a calculator to work out how much you could receive.

However, there are a few eligibility criteria:

  • you live in the UK
  • neither you or your partner have more than £16,000 in savings between you
  • you're 18 or over (although exceptions for younger persons can be made on a case-by-case basis)
  • you or your partner are under the State Pension age

If you live with your partner, their income and savings will be taken into account in your application for Universal Credit, even if they are not eligible for it.

If you've worked in the last two to three years, you could also apply for:

Create an account and make a claim

Next, you'll need to create an online account. Once you've created one, you'll need to submit your claim within 28 days. If you live with your partner, they'll need to set up an account too that HMRC will link with yours.

If you're self-employed, whether a Sole Trader, Sole Director or someone paying themselves through PAYE, you'll need to report your monthly earnings in a monthly assessment.

You'll need to include:

  • the total amount your business received
  • details of any rent you pay
  • any business expenses you've accumulated
  • how much tax and National Insurance contributions you've paid
  • any pension contributions

You may have to complete an interview with Jobcentre Plus

Once you've submitted your claim, HMRC may schedule an interview the assess whether your application is valid. Due to coronavirus, all face-to-face interviews have been cancelled but you may still be asked to complete a phone interview.

Apply for an advance on your first payment

As a result of coronavirus, many people need their first Universal Credit payment as soon as possible. The usual wait time for receiving your first payment is five weeks from the date of application, which may not be fast enough in the current circumstances. You can apply for an advance on your first payment in order to help with bills and costs while you wait.

You'll need to:

  • explain why you need an advance
  • complete an identity check
  • provide your bank details

Get your first payment

Your account will be updated to show how much you will receive.

Let HMRC know if your situation changes

If your situation changes, you'll need to let HMRC know. Failure to do so may result in your payments being reduced or stopped altogether. For more details on circumstance changes that you need to inform HMRC about, click here.

If you think you are eligible for Universal Credit, then it could be a good idea to get your application started as soon as possible. HMRC are currently receiving a high volume of applications and the sooner you make your application the quicker you're likely to receive your funding.

Applications can be made online using this link. Alternatively, if you want to call the Universal Credit helplines, the numbers are below.

Universal Credit helpline:

Telephone: 0800 328 5644 (choose option 2) Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

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Dan is part of the content team at iwoca. He writes articles explaining financial topics, as well as guides on the best support for small businesses during coronavirus.

Article updated on: 26 May 2020

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