Industry operators who receive dividends as part of their monthly income are pressing the government to include this in its financial help during the Coronavirus crisis.
Currently many self-employed agents, consultants and small-scale suppliers operate through small companies, often consisting of just themselves and a business or personal partner serving as directors.
On the advice of accountants and banks, such companies typically pay much of the directors’ monthly income as dividends with the rest in PAYE: however, the dividend element is not included in any government financial assistance package announced so far by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
In theory the company could furlough its directors, providing the individuals involved did no work other than run the basics of the company such as completing accounts. But at best they would be entitled to 80 per cent of their PAYE income and nothing at all to compensate for lost dividends.
Many self-employed estate agents who operate in new hybrid agencies that work for themselves but use facilities based in hubs, market centres and serviced offices are thought to be amongst the estimated one million self-employed who are unable to seek assistance from the government.
At least six agents in this position have sent a joint letter to the government explaining their predicament and asking for assistance. They have asked Estate Agent Today not to reveal their identities.
One trade body, too, the Property Energy Professionals Association, has written to Sunak seeking a change of policy.
PEPA chairman Andrew Parkin says: “The number of Energy Performance Certificates being produced is a fraction of what they were just a few weeks ago and many assessors are already feeling the serious financial impact of lower volumes, alongside all other parties involved in the property market.
“As many operate through small company structures, we have written to the Chancellor asking that the government support for the self-employed is extended to cover the dividends as well as wages which provide income to those affected.”