The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Re: Exclusion of grants to companies with serviced offices and limited PAYE compensation
I am writing to you as a member of the UK residential surveying community, which includes members of the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA), the Independent Surveyors and Valuers Association (ISVA) Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE), as one of many small businesses left with little or no financial support during the coronavirus crisis.
Like many other surveyors, I operate as an independent business and am affected in five key ways:-
1. I operate under a limited company and derive a significant proportion of our income through dividends and strictly within HMRC requirements. This means that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will only provide a monthly income of £500 as 80% of my basic PAYE income
2. As with many small businesses, I have a serviced office lease and do not pay independent business rates. Therefore, apparently, as an employer I am not eligible for any grants under the Small Business Grant Fund.
3. Uniquely, Surveyors have received specific guidance from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government preventing us from performing our duties except where surveys are deemed to be “urgent”. However, the circumstances that would make a survey urgent are not described and are, realistically, likely to be extremely rare. Hence it is not possible for me to earn any money during the crisis.
4. I have furloughed my staff and I am paying them 100% of their salary although I have no obligation to pay anything other than the 80% the government is offering, I do so because I believe in their commitment, skills and more importantly as an employer, I have an obligation during the bad times as well as the good times.
5. I now look to receive the same commitment from the treasury
I know that Greg Smith MP has written to you to highlight the specific concerns of small businesses during this crisis. The Chairman of the RPSA has discussed this matter with Greg and I wholly support the approaches he has made to you.
In his letter to us all, the Prime Minister said, “The Government will do whatever it takes to help you make ends meet and put food on the table”. Simply, Chancellor, the residential surveying community has been largely excluded from that promise.
On behalf of myself, and all of my colleagues in the residential surveying community, can I ask you, please, to consider the following actions, to ensure that we can all be ready to support the housing market when normal circumstances prevail.
1. Allow company directors, who receive their income by means of salary and dividends, to self-declare that their full primary income (including salary and dividends) is from a single business, and to claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in the same way as other employees. These facts can, of course, be verified later by HMRC should there be any suggestion that attempts have been made to include dividends from other sources.
2. Relax the upper limit of £50,000 of trading profits for the self-employed/company directors.
3. At the appropriate time, and as a priority, provide clear guidance for the public and property professionals to indicate that it is safe to recommence full market activities, including viewings and removals, perhaps with limited social distancing consideration, to promptly restore confidence to buyers and sellers.
I do appreciate that these are exceptional times and that you have put in place some significant support for many working people. But I would urge you to take account of the special needs of surveyors and valuers, and the importance of the housing market to the whole economy, and recognize the unique service that they provide to the economy in keeping the housing market active.