Martin Lewis shares 16 things everyone needs to know about lockdown finances

Martin Lewis is known for giving fantastic advice when it comes to money, and with the country back in lockdown, he has decided to share his knowledge once again.

The 48-year-old has shared a comprehensive guide to lockdown finances, including furlough, payment holidays, self-employed help, savings, university rights, working-from-home tax back, renting, and even self-assessment.

Martin said: "This time around at least, support mechanisms are already up and running. So I want to remind you of the key help, with links to more detailed info the team have diligently and hastily prepared.

"Even if they don't affect you, do take a few minutes to go through them, so you can spread the word."

1. Schools are shut

Schools have been closed for most children across the country, but you may not be aware that you can be furloughed in order to look after your children.

If you can't work from home or can't go to work due to childcare responsibilities, Martin has confirmed it is legal, though not compulsory, for employers to furlough you.

If you can't be furloughed, legally you've the right to take time off if needed to look after a dependant, but sadly you don't have a right to be paid for this time.

2. Furlough

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Martin has explained that in order to be furloughed you need to have been on your employer's payroll by October 30, 2020.

This rule also applies to zero-hours and agency workers too.

Furlough is currently set to last until April 30, and it covers 80 percent of an employee's salary, up to £2,500 a month.

Most private employers can furlough staff but it is totally at their discretion; you can't force them.

To qualify you need to have been on the 'Real Time Information payroll submission' your employer sent to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on or before October 30.

3. Furlough is flexible

You may not know that furlough can be very flexible and can be for as little as an hour a week. You don't have to be on furlough full-time.

If your work has reduced but not totally dried up, or you can do some work while caring for your child, you can be furloughed part-time, with hours changing weekly.

You get the 80 percent of your pay for that period and full pay from your employer for time worked.

4. Self-employed people

Those who are self-employed with a business due to suffer a significant profit reduction – including due to parental responsibilities – may get up to £7,500.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant 3 can be applied for up until January 29.

The main eligibility criteria for SEISS is that you must have filed a tax return for 2018/19, have an avg trading profit of less than £50,000/yr, and 50 percent plus of your income must be from self-employment.

5. Tax relief

If you've been required to work from home, even for one day, since April 6, you should join the 1.4m people who have claimed a year's tax relief.

Martin said: "I've been shouting about this here and on my show since October, and my claim work-from-home tax back blog's been viewed an incredible 6.6m times since.

"The rebate is worth £60 or £125 and HMRC told us last week about 1.4m had claimed. It's usually a doddle to do."

6. Payment holidays

Luckily, payment holidays for mortgages, cards, loans, car finance etc available until March 31

Those struggling financially due to Covid-19, who haven't had a payment holiday, can near-automatically get one for three months, then another after three months.

And those who have already had one can do it for up to a total six months.

7. Interest rates

Martin has advised people to consider locking in fixed savings as interest rates could be cut.

"According to investment platform AJ Bell, the lockdown means markets are now pricing in the odds of a UK interest rate cut this year at 50%, and for it to stay as now at 50% (before lockdown it was 30%/70%)," he explained.

"Of course the UK base rate is already at a historically low 0.1%, so that could mean rates cut to zero or even negative.

"To stave that off, while top fixed-rate savings are low too, at least the rate is locked in so once you get it, it can't drop further.

"It's worth considering for money you don't need access to but can't risk by investing."

8. Universal Credit

Universal credit is a benefit available to many employed, self-employed and unemployed people or those on low incomes, whether furloughed, getting SEISS or not.

Martin said: "Many dismiss it, but while it's not perfect it may help. At the top end, including housing allowances it can be worth £1,500 a month tax-free."

9. University students

Most university students are being advised against physically returning to university for now, and sadly there is no automatic refund entitlement for accommodation costs.

Martin confirmed that some universities in England and Scotland had already told him they were offering rent refunds or discounts, but with private renting it's even more difficult.

As for tuition fees, the Government said the fact teaching is online does not mean you're due a refund, as long as the quality is there.

10. Renters

If you're renting and you need some help then you should speak with your landlord.

"Landlords and tenants may be financially hurting due to the pandemic, so forbearance, tolerance and meeting in the middle is best for both," Martin explained.

"Many landlords with mortgages can get a payment holiday if their tenants are struggling to pay – so have the conversation.

"Yet tenants don't have a right to a rental holiday as mortgage holders do."

He added: "Evictions in England and Wales are currently banned until Monday – let's hope common sense prevails and it'll be extended."

11. Excluded people

Martin said there is no news for those who have been excluded, but he is hopeful for SEISS 4.

Up to 2.9m people have been excluded from furlough or SEISS, including PAYE freelancers, ltd company directors, new-starter self-employed and more.

Martin believes that SEISS grant 4 may now be tweaked to include more people.

12. Self-assessment deadline

The self-assessment deadline is January 31, and includes making past delayed payments. If you've been asked to do a self-assessment form for the 2019/20 tax year (normally self-employed/higher incomes/complex affairs) then the deadline as normal is January 31 online.

13. Bounce back loans

These can be used to replace lost income for self-employed people.

These loans allow small business owners to borrow up to £50,000, interest and repayment-free for the first 12 months.

For those who can't get other support, in some circumstances they can be used to replace lost personal income.

14. Holidays

Unfortunately, holidays are now banned for most people across the UK, but can you get a refund?

In England, Scotland and Wales, leisure travel is illegal but the competition watchdog says you should usually be due a full refund, but in practice it can be tricky to enforce in some cases.

15. Driving tests

Unfortunately, driving tests are one of the activities that has been cancelled.

However, if you had one booked you will be able to get a refund.

16. New business grants

New business grants are available in England for retail, leisure, hospitality and others.

Martin said: "It has just been announced that there's to be: a) one-off top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses up to £9,000 per property, and b) a £594m discretionary fund for other businesses.

"The Federation of Small Businesses has info, and it says it'll add more."

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