Support and recovery package substantially expanded
The government is substantially expanding its support package for jobs and the economy. Vaccination has begun, opening up possibilities for the future. But the reality now is that businesses are going through an extremely difficult period. The coronavirus crisis has now also become a long-running economic crisis, in which businesses and workers have been hit hard. Buffers have been eroded and reserves have been exhausted. Measures have been tightened and the Netherlands is in lockdown. The government is therefore giving its support and recovery package a significant extra boost.
Additional expenditure on the package will amount to €7.6 billion over the first and second quarters of 2021.
Fixed Costs Grant Scheme
The government is expanding the Fixed Costs Grant Scheme (TVL), and more businesses will be eligible for support under the scheme. For the first two quarters of 2021, the TVL grant will be 85% of a proportion of fixed costs that is equal the percentage of turnover lost, provided the loss in turnover is at least 30%. The requirement that a business must have no more than 250 employees to be eligible is being abandoned. This means that larger companies also qualify. In addition, from the first quarter of 2021, the maximum grant amount will rise from €90,000 to €330,000 for SMEs and €400,000 for non-SMEs.
In order to provide additional support to small businesses like hairdressers and pedicurists, the minimum grant amount will rise from €750 to €1,500. The government is also examining the possibility of giving more small businesses access to the TVL scheme. The expansion of the scheme will cost a total of around €3.8 million in the first and second quarters of 2021.
Compensation for retailers holding excess stock
The government is extending and raising the compensation for retailers that have been left with excess stock due to the extended lockdown. Many stores have been left with, for example, winter collections that will be hard to sell. In the first quarter of 2021, the grant will amount to 21% on top of the fixed-cost percentage that applies under the TVL scheme (previously 5.6%), up to a maximum of €200,000. The expected cost of this measure is €160 million.
The government is introducing a scheme for new businesses which were started between 1 January and 30 June 2020. The details have yet to be finalised. The scheme, which will be based as far as possible on the TVL, will apply to both the first and second quarters of 2021. The reference period for these businesses will be the third quarter of 2020. Startups which began between 1 January and 15 March 2020 are also eligible for the standard TVL scheme in the first quarter of 2021. In the second quarter of 2021, startups which began between 1 January and 15 March 2020 will only be eligible for the separate startup scheme.
The government hopes to be able to launch this scheme in May. The scheme is expected to cost between €55 million and €70 million per quarter. Startups can also obtain a coronavirus bridging loan of up to €35,000. A total of €70 million has been set aside for coronavirus bridging loans.
Temporary emergency scheme for job retention (NOW) and Self-employment income support and loan scheme (TOZO)
NOW grants, which enable employers to continue paying their employees’ salaries, are being increased from 80% to 85% of the wage bill. The amount by which the wage bill can be reduced without affecting the grant amount – the wage bill exemption – will remain at 10%. NOW grants for January, February and March can be applied for from 15 February.
Self-employed people can apply for income support under the TOZO scheme from 1 February 2021. They can apply for support covering the period from the start of the previous month. This means they can apply from 1 February 2021 for income support for the period from 1 January 2021. On 1 March 2021 they can apply for support from 1 February.
The extended TOZO scheme (TOZO 4) starts on 1 April. TOZO 4 was due to introduce a means test, but the government has decided not to go ahead with this. Self-employed people will be able to apply for TOZO 4 for the previous month, in the same way as for TOZO 3. This means that income support from 1 April 2021 can be applied for on 1 May 2021. It will not be possible to apply under TOZO 4 for the period covered by TOZO 3 (i.e. for the period from January to March 2021 inclusive).
A guarantee fund will be created for events. This will enable event organisers to start planning and organising festivals, for example, once it is responsible to do so. The current thinking is that this could be from 1 July. The government is still working on the details of this plan, for which at least €300 million will be earmarked.
The government is extending the period in which business owners can apply to defer payment of taxation, or to extend a deferral, to 30 June 2021. Businesses that have not yet applied for deferral or extension can now do so. For businesses that had already been granted an extension earlier this year, the deferral will now run automatically to 30 June 2021. The date from which businesses have to start paying the deferred tax will also be put back, from 1 July 2021 to 1 October 2021. They will be given 36 months to pay the tax they owe.
Also, as part of the Time Out Arrangement (TOA), the Tax and Customs Administration wishes to look more flexibly, together with creditors and debt counsellors, at waiving certain (tax) debts, in cases where a payment arrangement is not sufficient. It aims to have this plan ready in the second quarter of this year. In the meantime, the Tax and Customs Administration will put on hold any restructuring requests already submitted if the business owner concerned requests it to do so.
It is quite possible that we will work more from home in the future. The government is therefore now examining tax measures that could be devised to enable employers to reimburse costs associated with working from home. It is also looking at how that would tie in with existing travel expense allowances.
This year employers can also provide an allowance of this kind via the work-related costs scheme. This scheme is again being expanded, as it was last year. In addition, up to 30 March 2021 employers can again pay existing fixed travel expense allowances tax free.
Business owners who lose turnover due to the coronavirus crisis can again set so-called customary pay (a minimum salary for employees who own a substantial interest in the business) at a lower level in 2021, subject to new conditions that are comparable with other support measures.
The hours-worked criterion that must be satisfied in order to apply certain deductions (such as the self-employed person's tax deduction) is being relaxed up to 30 June 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis.
Certain other tax measures will also be extended until 30 June 2021, including the zero rate of VAT on face masks and enabling mortgage payment holidays for tax purposes.
The additional tax measures will cost nearly €900 million.
- A credit facility will be introduced for business owners wishing to use the Court Approval of a Private Composition (Prevention of Insolvency) Act (WHOA) as part of the Time Out Arrangement (TOA). The combination of credit and the WHOA enables companies to restart their operations when the situation improves, so that jobs are retained. The government has set aside €200 million for this facility.
- The government is extending support measures for amateur sport, for which it is making €240 million available. This money will fund the Amateur Sport Organisation Grant Scheme, the Sports Facility Lessors Grant Scheme, and the Special-Purpose Grant for Ice Rinks and Swimming Pools.
- The temporary coronavirus-related scheme for students in secondary vocational education and higher education (MBO, HBO and WO) will be extended up to and including August of this year. Students whose studies are delayed due to coronavirus measures and who graduate between February 2021 and the end of August 2021 will receive a contribution towards their study costs. All students whose entitlement to a basic grant and/or a supplementary grant ends between October 2020 and the end of August 2021 will receive a financial contribution. This will cost around €135 million in total.
- Medium-sized agricultural and horticultural businesses are not eligible for the increased TVL grant due to EU rules. The government considers this to be an undesirable situation and is therefore working on an alternative arrangement that complies with state aid rules.
- The arrangements agreed with subnational authorities on compensation for extra expenditure and loss of income will be extended into the second quarter of 2021.