With the current COVID-19 crisis many businesses continue to seek government support to help them with the uncertainty of the months ahead. Whilst this aid is undoubtedly a lifeline for many, it could lead to potential problems in the future as businesses that benefit from such schemes can be said to be benefitting from State Aid.
Under EU legislation, a business can be said to be benefitting from State Aid if it receives aid from an EU member state which could distort competition and trade within the EU. This aid can be in the form of grants, tax breaks or loans and if it is deemed to be only available to certain sectors or industries, then it falls within this remit.
However, schemes that are universally available and not restricted to designated sectors or business size, such as the job retention scheme and deferral of VAT and income tax payments, are not classed as State Aid. Further, the business rates relief available for retail, leisure, hospitality and childcare nurseries are also not classed as State Aid, due to the colossal impact that COVID-19 has had on these sectors.
Monies received under the small business grants fund (SBGF) are classed as de minimis State Aid, providing that they fall under the ceiling of €200,000 over a rolling 3-year period, and as a result do not need EU approval. Though all companies benefitting from the SBGF are required to complete a declaration confirming that the aid does not exceed the threshold, including any previous non-COVID-19 related de minimis aid claims.
In order to support businesses in this tumultuous time, the EU have established a temporary framework within which several State Aid measures can be approved rapidly, whilst still being compatible with the EU’s internal market. The UK State Aid that sits under this temporary framework includes:
- Retail, hospitality and leisure grant fund (RHLGF)
- COVID-19 business interruption loan scheme (CBILS), interest and other direct payments
- Bounce back loans
- Statutory sick pay (SSP) reclaims
- SBGF claims that exceed the de minimis cap (see below)
All of these measures are subject to a combined overall cap of €800,000 apart from the CBILS and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
If you have any questions on state aid feel free to call us on 01173 700 079 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org