In an article published in the Newsletter on 10th April, McKees, has expressed concern at the number of local businesses that are still not sure, or don’t fully appreciate at this time, what help they are entitled to, if any, through the government’s coronavirus support packages.

Almost three weeks ago, McKee’s set up the SME Support Forum with accountancy firm Harbinson Mulholland and financial services practice, Kerr Henderson, to provide free guidance and support to businesses impacted during the current challenging conditions, and in that time the three firms have said it is clear that businesses across Northern Ireland are still confused about what they are entitled to – especially around finance and insurance.

Chris Ross, Managing Partner of McKees said: “There is currently a lot of information out there, but businesses, particularly SME’s with limited resources, still don’t fully appreciate what help they are actually entitled to and how they should go about seeking the assistance. The government has worked hard to put the support packages in place in only a matter of weeks, however from speaking to businesses, we are finding that there is still a lot of panic, confusion and uncertainty. Cash flow is by far the greatest concern with many businesses struggling to sustain current salary bills and with no clear indication of when government cash will actually hit their bank accounts.

“Through the free SME Support Forum, we have been working with businesses to be a ‘signal above the noise’ and help with the practical information that is needed at this challenging time. Take VAT for example, and something that a lot of businesses we have spoken to are not aware of, is that they should still submit their VAT return as normal but must cancel their direct debit with HMRC to prevent the payment being taken out.

“A lot of employers are confused about pensions and if they can put some or all of their scheme membership on a contribution holiday. The answer to this, is no. Minimum contributions required under automatic enrolment have not been suspended, so employers should continue to pay their own and forward their employees’ contributions to their scheme provider in the normal way.