19 February

Brexit SME Support Fund - Grants to help SME New to Importing or Exporting

The government has launched the SME Brexit Support Fund giving up to £2,000 to help with training or professional advice on exporting for businesses with up to 500 employees.

The SME Brexit Support Fund is estimated to be worth £20m to help businesses get to grips with post Brexit importing or exporting rules. To provide SMEs with additional support, the fund will be administered through the pre-existing Customs Grant Scheme and will open for applications next month.

Eligible businesses must have a turnover under £100m and will be able to use the grants for training on how to complete customs declarations, manage customs processes and use customs software and systems. This will also cover specific import and export related aspects including VAT, excise, and rules of origin. It can be used to help get professional advice so SMEs can meet their customs, excise, import VAT, or safety and security declaration requirements.

To qualify for the grants, SMEs must:

. Be established in the UK

. Have been established in the UK for at least 12 months before submitting the application, or currently hold Authorised Economic Operator status

. Not have previously failed to meet its tax or customs obligations

. Have no more than 500 employees

. Have no more than £100 million turnover

. Import or export goods between Great Britain and the EU, or moves goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The business must also either:

. Complete (or intend to complete) import or export declarations internally for its own goods; or

. Use someone else to complete import or export declarations but requires additional capability internally to effectively import or export (such as advice on rules of origin or advice on dealing with a supply chain).

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said: ‘The government has listened carefully to the issues raised by the business community through the Brexit Business Taskforce and that’s why we are bringing forward this financial support to help small businesses adapt to the changes to our trading relationship with the EU. This new targeted funding will see small businesses get more of the practical support they need to adjust to the new processes and prepare for further changes as we implement our own import controls in April and July'.

Members of the Brexit Business Taskforce have welcomed the additional support.

Mike Cherry, national chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘This announcement is very significant. Small businesses, often with few cash reserves, are for the first time facing complex new customs processes, VAT requirements, and rules of origin. While many have come to FSB for help, we have been asking for proper financial assistance of this scale, so that a cash-strapped small business can afford to buy-in expertise, training, and practical support. The new fund will make a significant difference.

Applications for the grants will open in March and PwC will administer the scheme for HMRC through an online portal.

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The government is already underwriting a guarantee scheme aimed at SMEs which means the government can provide an 80% guarantee on financial support from lenders to help with general exporting costs, up to the value of £25m.

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