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To support the self-employed through the coronavirus outbreak, in March 2020 the Government announced the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Initially the Scheme paid taxable grants worth 80% of someone’s average monthly trading profit, for a three-month period. Those claiming could receive a grant up to £7,500 in total. Subsequently the SEISS was extended to the end of September 2021.

The first round

On 30 April 2020 the Government published the Treasury Direction to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the statutory rules for HMRC to administer the SEISS. The Scheme opened for applications on 13 May and closed on 13 July. Just over 2.6 million claims were received for this first grant, costing £7.6 billion.

The second round

On 29 May 2020 the Government announced a second round of the SEISS. Those eligible were able to claim a second grant, worth 70% of their average monthly trading profit, for a further three months, capped at £6,570 in total. On 2 July a second Treasury Direction was published, setting out the statutory rules the second grant. Applications were opened on 17 August and closed on 19 October 2020. 2.35 million claims were made for the second SEISS grant, worth £5.9 billion in total. A detailed breakdown for the first two SEISS grants is provided in, HMRC, SEISS statistics: November 2020, 25 February 2021.

The SEISS Grant Extension

On 24 September 2020 the Government announced an extension to the SEISS to be introduced in November 2020, to cover the six months up to the end of April 2021. The SEISS Grant Extension would be made in two grants – the first to cover November 2020 to January 2021, the second to cover February 2021 to April 2021. 

Initially it was proposed that the first of these grants would cover 20% of average monthly trading profits, capped at £1,875, but this figure was revised three times.  On 22 October the Chancellor announced the grant would cover 40% of average monthly trading profits, capped at £3,750. On 2 November the Chancellor said the payment for the first month (November) of the grant would be set at 80% – increasing the total level of this grant to 55% of trading profits, capped at £5,160. Subsequently on 5 November the Chancellor announced that all three months of the grant would be based on 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.

On 24 November 2020 the Government published a further Treasury Direction to cover this third SEISS grant. Applications opened on 29 November and closed on 29 January 2021. Just under 2.2 million claims were made for this grant, worth just over £6.2 billion in total (HMRC, SEISS statistics: July 2021, 12 July 2021).

The fourth and fifth rounds

On 3 March 2021 the Chancellor presented the 2021 Budget. In his Budget the Chancellor set out details of the fourth SEISS grant, to cover the period February to April, and announced a fifth grant to cover up to the end of September 2021 (Budget 2021, HC 1226, March 2021 para 2.15‑6).

The fourth grant was set at 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500. Unlike earlier SEISS grants, the grant took into account 2019/20 tax returns and was open to those who became self-employed in the 2019/20 tax year.

On 6 April the Government published a Treasury Direction setting the statutory rules for the fourth grant. Applicants have been required to  declare that they “reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction” in their trading profits (HMRC, Check if you can claim a grant through the SEISS, 13 May 2021). Several other factors were important in determining eligibility for the grant (HMRC, How your circumstances affect eligibility for the SEISS, 9 April 2021). Applications opened on 21 April and closed on 1 June 2021. Just over 1.95 million claims were made for this grant, at a total cost of £5.5 billion.

A fifth and final grant covered May to September. The size of the grant was determined, in part, by the amount a claimant’s turnover has reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021. The grant was worth:

  • 80% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500, for those with a turnover reduction of 30% or more
  • 30% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850, for those with a turnover reduction of less than 30%.4F7F

On 6 July the Government published a Treasury Direction for the fifth grant. Applications opened on 29 July and closed on 30 September. HMRC published guidance on the eligibility, supplemented by guidance on how someone’s circumstances may affect eligibilty and how their trading profits and non-trading income will determine their grant:

With the closure of the SEISS, this guidance has now been withdrawn.

Applicants have had to consider how their trade was affected between 1 May 2021 to 30 September 2021. In most cases applicants have had to submit figures on their turnover, and HMRC also published guidance on how this should be calculated: Work out your turnover so you can claim the fifth SEISS grant, 20 August 2021.

This is a fast-moving area and this briefing should be read as correct at the time of publication (4 October 2021). As with all Commons Library briefings, this information is provided to Members of Parliament in support of their parliamentary duties and is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. A suitably qualified professional should be consulted if specific advice or information is required.


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