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Brexit support for SMEs

In February the Government announced a £20m fund to support smaller businesses prepare for the changing trade relationship with the EU.

From 15 March 2021 smaller businesses may apply to the SME Brexit Support Fund for a grant which aims to help them with changes to trade rules with the EU.

There have been numerous recent reports about how SMEs are facing a disproportionate impact from the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU and calls from the likes of the Federation of Small Businesses and Institute of Directors for more support SMEs to access the professional advice they need to comply with the new and increased formalities and costs to move goods.

If your business has up to 500 employees and no more than £100 million annual turnover, the SME Brexit Support Fund could give you up to £2,000 to help with training or professional advice so your business can meet its customs, excise, import VAT or safety and security declaration requirements.

Applications are to be online through made online via PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who is administering the grants for HMRC and will close on 30 June 2021 or earlier if all funding is allocated before this date.

What you’ll be able to use the grant for

You can use the grant for training on:

  • how to complete customs declarations
  • how to manage customs processes and use customs software and systems
  • specific import and export related aspects including VAT, excise and rules of origin.

Who will be able to apply

Your business must:

  • be established in the UK for customs:
    • For an individual a residence in the UK which you live in for at least 183 days a year.
    • For partnerships or corporations you have either a registered office, central headquarters or permanent business establishment in the UK. A permanent business establishment is a place of business where: staff are permanently employed; the technical resources of the business are always present and customs operations are wholly or partly carried out.
    • For Multi-national or large companies a parent company and subsidiaries or branches which can be established in one or several parts of the UK. Whether the branch or subsidiary has the status of a separate legal person depends on national company law.
  • have been established in the UK for at least 12 months before submitting the application, or currently hold Authorised Economic Operator status (AEO), an internationally recognised quality mark that is awarded to economic operators, meeting certain criteria, who are seen as reliable and compliant by the customs authorities. AEO status gives quicker access to simpler customs procedures and, in some cases, the ability to ‘fast-track’ shipments through customs and associated safety and security procedures.
  • not have previously failed to meet its tax or customs obligations
  • have no more than 500 employees
  • have no more than £100 million turnover
  • import or export goods between Great Britain and the EU, or moves goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • either complete (or intend to complete) import or export declarations internally for its own goods or use someone else to complete import or export declarations but require additional capability internally to effectively import or export (such as advice on rules of origin or advice on dealing with a supply chain).

Jon Geldart, Director-General of the Institute of Directors, has welcomed this measure and commented that “Smaller firms have long needed assistance with managing the host of new requirements that come with changing our EU trading arrangements, and that need has only grown in the current adjustment phase”.

The Federation of Small Businesses (“FSB”) have cautiously welcomed the Government assistance. The FSB National Chairman, Mike Cherry, has commented that the FSB are encouraging all eligible small businesses to take a look and apply for this new source of help, however, the fund’s roll-out would require close monitoring, and there was a likelihood it would need to be “topped up” over time and suggested that there are other measures which could be put in place to assist SMEs adapt to the new regime such as an increase in the threshold for which goods are liable for UK duty.

How can we help?

If you have any questions relating to the new formalities as a result of the new trading relationship between UK and EU including terms and conditions and, in particular, your obligations, delivery, returns, limitations of liability and transfer of risk in the goods please get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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