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Bleak picture for limited firms in Northern Ireland during coronavirus crisis

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Artist Adrian Margey at his Portrush gallery

Artist Adrian Margey at his Portrush gallery

Artist Adrian Margey at his Portrush gallery

A Northern Ireland artist is calling for more support for small limited companies who have been left out of Government bailout schemes during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Adrian Margey, who has his own gallery in Portrush, said his firm is among over 30,000 limited companies in NI who are struggling for help during the current crisis.

He said while self-employed workers will get paid 80% of their profits in a new payout scheme for three months, starting in June, he and a host of other limited companies here whose earnings rely on dividends will get no help.

"I am employed by a limited company but part of my earnings comes from dividends on which I pay tax," Mr Margey said.

The artist, who has now set up an online shop of his works via his Facebook page and website, said that the Chancellor's job protection scheme fails to take into account those who take payments in dividends. "We need them to look at our income tax returns and what we are taxed on in terms of earnings. That would be fair and give us a level footing."

A Department for the Economy spokesperson said: "HM Treasury has announced that: 'Those who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by the scheme [the Self Employed Income Support Scheme] but will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if they are operating PAYE schemes.'"

The government scheme entails a company putting employees on ‘furlough’, where they continue to be paid 80% of their salary, but there is no work for them to do. But Mr Margey said the concept was not practical for a “one-man band”. “It is the unfairness of the situation. It excludes us and I would hope the Chancellor would go back and look at this,” he said.

There are currently 30,335 limited companies in Northern Ireland. Roger Pollen, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) NI head of external affairs, said the package for self-employed “still has some gaps, including for those whose average profits are above £50,000 or those who pay themselves through dividends”.

He said he would continue to work on behalf of those SMEs “to get the greatest support and, in this vein, would urge the NI Executive to extend the initial three-month rates holiday which has already been announced so that businesses have certainty for the entirety of the year ahead, as has been implemented elsewhere.”

Chris Ross, managing partner at law firm McKees, which is currently operating an SME support service during the crisis, said: “The government has had to rush through support and they’re trying to stop it from being abused but, from my point of view, the assumption has been made wrongly. Many people who have set up these payment structures are in a loophole.

“I would hope the government would have time to consider this and I would suggest it is an item that needs dealt with. Limited companies seem to be the one category that isn’t being protected.”

Belfast Telegraph