COVID-19: TEMPORARY WAGE SUBSIDY SCHEME
This scheme was introduced to support businesses to retain the link between employers and employees during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The scheme was introduced on 26th March 2020 for an initial 12 week period. However, the Minister for Finance has now extended the scheme until the end of August 2020.
We await further clarification of any revisions to the operation of the scheme for the period of the extension.
The Subsidy Scheme is open to employers across all sectors, (excluding the Public Service and Non-Commercial Semi-State Sector), whose business activities are being adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
To qualify for the Scheme, employers must:
- be experiencing significant negative economic disruption due to COVID-19;
- be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Revenue, a minimum of a 25% decline in turnover or customer orders in Q2 2020;
- be unable to pay normal wages and normal outgoings fully; and (employers should be mindful of this as they move to Q3),
- retain their employees on the payroll.
To register for the Scheme:
- An Employer can register via Revenue’s online system (“ROS”);
- Registration is on a self-assessment basis by making a self-declaration to Revenue confirming the business meets the qualifying conditions.
- This declaration by the employer is not a declaration of insolvency.
Other points to note:
- Eligible employers can participate in the scheme in respect of any eligible employees.
- Eligible employees are those on their payroll on 29th February 2020, and included in the payroll submission made to Revenue in March 2020. This includes staff on reduced hours, rehired staff who were temporarily laid off or staff temporarily laid off but retained on the payroll.
- The subsidy is based on Average Revenue Net Weekly Pay (“ARNWP”) for January & February 2020.
- Revenue has calculated each employee’s Maximum Weekly Wage Subsidy (MWWS) based on the employee’s ARNWP and is providing this, along with other necessary information, to each employer (who is operating the scheme) in respect of each active employee.
- Employers are expected to make best efforts to maintain employees’ net income as close as possible to normal net income for the duration of the Subsidy period, but are not obliged to do so.
- There is no age restriction for employees to be eligible and it includes those employees on fulltime, part-time, temporary and short-time work arrangements.
- From 16 April 2020, the scheme has been extended to employees with an annual salary of greater than €76,000 (average net weekly pay of greater than €960 per week) before the pandemic, and who have since taken a pay cut of at least 20% and fallen below €76,000.
- If an employer makes a top-up payment in excess of that permitted, the subsidy will either be tapered or the employer may not be eligible to receive any subsidy payment.
- If an employee was not on the employer's payroll in January or February 2020 due to being on maternity leave or adoptive leave, they can now qualify for TWSS. The Minister for Finance has announced that payments may be backdated to 26 March 2020 for people who now qualify for the scheme. It is expected that the revised arrangements to allow for the payment will be in place from 12 June (although the legislation for the scheme may not be in place until later in the year).
Operational Phase (from 4 May 2020):
The subsidy paid to employers will be based on each individual employee’s ARNWP, as follows:
- For employees with an ARNWP of less than €586:-
- for employees with a previous ARNWP of up to €412, a subsidy of 85% of ARNWP, to a maximum of €350, is applicable.
In addition, the employer may top up the employee to €350 per week without any tapering of the subsidy payment.
- for employees with a previous ARNWP between €413 and €500, the subsidy will be €350 per week;
- for employees with a previous ARNWP between €501 and €586, a subsidy of 70% of ARNWP is applicable to a maximum of €410.
- For employees with an ARNWP of between €587 and €960, a maximum subsidy of €350 per week will apply. A tiered approach will also apply, taking into account both the top-up amount paid by the employer and the reduction in pay borne by the employee.
- Revenue will provide each employer with a calculation of each employees MWWS based on an employee’s ARNWP. This information can be downloaded in a CSV format from ROS.
Note: Income tax or USC re not deducted from the Subsidy. However, the employee may be liable to Income Tax and USC on the Subsidy by way of review at the end of the year.
Note: The amounts paid to employees and notified to Revenue will be transferred into an employer’s valid refund bank account by Revenue. This reimbursement will, in general, be made within two working days after receipt of the payroll submission.
Revenue issued version 14 of their Guidance Notes on the TWSS on 29th May 2020. The key additional points are summarised as follows:
Processing of rehired employees (paragraph 2.8): As staff return to work, if an employee was laid off and their employment ceased, and the employer now wishes to place this employee back on payroll to validly avail of the TWSS, the employer can do so. To ensure the smooth processing of the reemployment the Guidance Notes outline the steps that should be followed.
Between 2 May 2020 and 17 May 2020 employees that were rehired were temporarily not included in the Employer CSV file. Revenue has updated the Employer CSV files to include rehired employees notified to Revenue between 2 May 2020 and 17 May 2020. Any J9 refund submissions made during this period have now been reprocessed and where appropriate refunds have issued. This updated file is available for download by employers who have notified Revenue of such rehires.
Since 25 May, the Employer CSV File is being refreshed on a daily basis to include rehired employees notified to Revenue. Employers will be notified when an updated Employer CSV File is available for download, including when an employee’s information has changed due to rehire in another employment.
Multiple employments (paragraph 3.12): Confirmation that Revenue consider earnings from all active employments, including an occupational pension and retirement benefits such as Annuities, when determining the CSV File figures.
These multiple employments will be combined, and each employer will be provided with an employer Maximum Weekly Wage Subsidy (MWWS) and the Maximum Weekly Employer Pay before Tapering (MWEPBT) to apply to the employee’s payroll. This personalised information will ensure that the employee’s overall position is taken into consideration when calculating the employee’s subsidy entitlements.
The guidance also confirms that State pensions are taxed through tax credits and are not treated as employments taxed through the PAYE system.
Employees Returning from Maternity, Adoptive or Parental Leave (paragraph 3.15)
An eligible employer can request Revenue to treat an employee as an eligible employee for the purposes of this scheme where that employee returns (or is due to return in the coming weeks) to employment following Maternity, Adoptive, Paternity or Parental leave, or directly related unpaid leave, or was in receipt of Health and Safety benefit, Parent's benefit, or Illness benefit paid by DEASP for the month of February 2020.
Revenue has established a new system to process these cases. An eligible employer wishing to include in the scheme any employee returning to work following a period of the above leave or having received any of the above benefits must make a request to include that employee in the scheme and provide details to Revenue through ROS MyEnquiries.
On receipt of each request, Revenue will check DEASP data to confirm status of the employee. Using the employer provided pay and related data, Revenue will determine a “Calculated Revenue Net Weekly Pay” (CRNWP) for each employee concerned. This is equivalent to the Average Revenue Net Weekly Pay (ARNWP) used in TWSS. Using the CRNWP Revenue will calculate the relevant employee’s Maximum Weekly Wage Subsidy (MWWS) and will provide this, along with other necessary information, to the employer in respect of each requested employee.
Where a returning employee has more than one employment Revenue will calculate the CRNWP at employment and employee level and provide information to each employer on the MWWS applicable for that employment. The information will be included in the ‘Employer CSV file’. Relevant Employers will be informed through a notification message in MyEnquiries that a revised ‘Employer CSV file’ is available for download.
The subsidy will be backdated to the date of recommencement of employment or from 26 March 2020, whichever is the latest date. In the case of individuals who had been in receipt of the PUP, no retrospection will apply for the periods the individuals had been in receipt of income support payments.
Retirement benefits and ARNWP (paragraph 4.3): Confirmation that retirement benefits/pensions paid during the period, that where subjected to income tax through the PAYE system, will also be taken into account when calculating Average Revenue Net Weekly Pay (ARNWP).
Using the information on the CSV File (paragraph 4.5): Further advice to recommend employers use the figures provided on the Employer CSV File. Where an employer opts not to use the CSV File, the employer risks applying incorrect values to the ARNWP and subsidy calculations, as an employee may have more than one employment. Multiple employments include occupational retirement benefits/pensions.
ROS input screen (paragraph 4.18.1): Revenue provides further information on entering the subsidy on the ROS input screen, for employers not using payroll software.
Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) (paragraph 5.4): Information on the process for resuming reporting of BIK when an employee moves off the TWSS. The suspended BIK should be spread over the remaining payrolls for 2020. Where this is not achievable, the suspended BIK should be reported by employers before the year end. Further details on how this should be reported will be provided in due course. Where an employment ceases before 31 December 2020, the balance of the untaxed BIK should be included in the final payroll in respect of the employment.
TWSS refunds not processed or lower than expected (paragraph 5.6): Revenue provides more information on circumstances where subsidy reduction or refusal may arise due to excessive additional gross payments.
Revenue notes that some employers may be modelling subsidy calculations and additional gross payments outside of their payroll package, which is giving rise to excessive additional gross payments that are subject to subsidy tapering by Revenue. This can occur when the employer bases the subsidy calculation on the taxable pay rather than the gross pay and does not factor in AVC/RBS contributions or other taxable pay that are included in gross pay when reported to Revenue. As a result, the calculated additional gross payments exceed the MWEPBT and tapering occurs.
Additionally, an employer may be attempting to reach a target pay figure for the employee and calculates an additional gross payment that exceeds the MWEPBT and tapering occurs.
Revenue includes a reminder of the sample CSV calculator which is intended to assist employers to calculate the maximum additional gross payment without tapering and to demonstrate the impact of additional gross payments on the employee’s subsidy refund.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that the content of this summary does not amount to professional advice. Legal and tax advice should be sought in respect of specific queries. The COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly and this update is provided on the basis of information available as at 8 June 2020.