KPMG provides guidance to SMEs amid Covid-19 pandemic

Business | Thu 19 Mar | Author – Business & Finance

Professional services firm KPMG Ireland shares details of key Revenue measures aimed at mitigating the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The firm has said that while the outbreak poses significant challenges for businesses, the impact is more pronounced for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

With the Irish government taking systematic steps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to protect the Irish economy in the wake of the pandemic, Revenue has announced some key relief measures aimed at supporting small and medium businesses experiencing cash-flow and trading difficulties as a result.

KPMG Director Claire Davey takes the lead in detailing and explaining each relief measure and what it means for SMEs. 

Cash Flow is already an issue for SMEs as they are particularly vulnerable to sudden loss of trade.

An SME, as defined by Revenue for tax purposes, is a business with turnover of less than €3 million who is not dealt with by either Revenue’s Large Cases Division or Medium Enterprises Division. These relief measures recognise the cash flow difficulties SME businesses may now find themselves in and includes benefits and payments for both employers and employees.

VAT and PAYE 

Revenue has confirmed that they will work with taxpayers to resolve payment difficulties and has asked asked that any affected businesses, not limited to just SMEs, take the following proactive steps:

  • Taxpayers should continue to file all tax returns, e.g. bi-monthly VAT returns and monthly PAYE returns, on time.
  • Engage with Revenue as soon as possible where they are facing difficulties in paying tax liabilities

Following on from this advice, Revenue has also announced the following relieving measures, with immediate effect:

  • Interest on late payments of January/February VAT and both February and March PAYE liabilities are to be suspended
  • All Revenue debt enforcement activity will also be suspended until further notice.

KPMG welcomes these measures but says that a greater challenge may lie in the ability to pay PAYE/PRSI liabilities. 

“Apart from these being monthly payments, these represent fixed liabilities which need to be made if staff are to be paid and retained. VAT returns should be less problematic given their link to turnover, although any expense decisions will now need to be carefully taken, these are unprecedented times,” said Davey.

In further recognition that late tax payments are a distinct possibility, Revenue has confirmed that the current tax clearance status will remain in place for all businesses over the coming months.

RCT

The planned RCT (Relevant Contracts Tax) review scheduled to take place in March 2020 is suspended. RCT is a withholding tax that applies to certain payments by principal contractors to subcontractors in the construction, forestry and meat-processing industries. The rates of tax are 0%, 20% and 35%. The review was designed to assess the current rate applicable to each subcontractor in the eRCT system and determine whether a different rate should apply. The suspension will allow lower rates of RCT to be withheld in cases where a higher rate should in fact be due.

In the case of subcontractors, existing rates will continue for now. Subcontractors can opt to ‘self-review’ within the eRCT system where they can check their current rate and apply for a reduced RCT rate.

Customs

Critical pharmaceutical products and medicines will be given “green routing” status for customs purposes in order to ensure an uninterrupted importation and supply process during these exceptional and difficult times.

KPMG welcomes the proactive stance Revenue has taken but in a time of uncertainty, says it remains to be seen whether they will be sufficient to allow SMEs to remain solvent through these difficult times. 

“With the impact of the pandemic likely to be long-lasting, calls for further help and emergency legislation to cut employer tax rates and/or reduce interest on late tax payments, short-term tax holidays for affected businesses and a reduction in VAT rates cannot be ruled out,” according to Davey.

For now, KPMG says these immediate tax measures are both necessary and welcome in the current climate and SME businesses can draw some comfort from a recent Revenue statement which said, “It is important that businesses know that Revenue has a long history of working very successfully with taxpayers to resolve their tax payments difficulties.”

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