What are the employer eligibility criteria for the scheme?
Much like the TWSS, the EWSS will be administered by Revenue on a 'self-assessment' basis. While Revenue will not be looking for proof of eligibility at the registration stage, it will undertake assurance checks. Employers should therefore retain evidence of their basis for entering and remaining in the EWSS.
Employers must possess a valid tax clearance certificate to enter the EWSS, and must continue to maintain tax clearance for the duration of the scheme in order to receive the applicable payments. Employers can check their current tax clearance status through ROS. If an employer does not currently hold tax clearance, an application can be made online and assessed in real time through the ROS e-Tax clearance service.
Tax clearance will be refused where the employer or any of their connected parties, have any outstanding returns or liabilities.
In addition to having tax clearance, an employer must also be able to demonstrate that:
According to the guidelines, employers should include all sources of trade income when reviewing the potential drop in turnover, specifically including sales, donations and state funding. This is likely to result in employers in the public, community and voluntary sectors being ineligible, as state funding has mainly remained static and has even increased in some sectors. Appendix 1 of the guidelines provides additional guidance on determining the reduction in turnover or customer orders.
Childcare businesses registered in accordance with section 58C of the 1991 Child Care Act do not need to meet a turnover test to participate in the EWSS.
The 30% reduction in turnover or customer orders may be applied at the level of the entity as a whole or, if the entity is formally structured into individual business divisions and has been since the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions began in March 2020, at the level of the individual business division. In these cases, each individual business division which meets the eligibility criteria may be eligible for the subsidy. The decline in turnover or customer orders in each business division must be capable of being separately identified, otherwise the entity as a whole must be assessed. Each business division must have a clearly defined and distinct management structure in place separate to the other business divisions, and these structures must be formalised and have been well-established before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Revenue may need to examine closely the basis for entering the EWSS of certain applications that are made in respect of one or more business divisions rather than in respect of the entity as a whole.
Alternative 'other reasonable basis'
An alternative 'reasonable basis' can be applied where the application of the turnover and customer orders tests do not adequately demonstrate the disruption to a business caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the guidelines, it is not possible to be prescriptive as to what will satisfy this test. However, it must be the case that neither the turnover nor customer orders tests is capable of being applied to the business in question. It is not sufficient that the business does not meet either of these tests. In all such cases, guidance from Revenue should be sought through the division or branch responsible for the tax affairs of the employer concerned.
Employers must carry out a review on the last day of every month to ensure that they continue to meet the eligibility criteria, although no review needs to be carried out in July 2020 and the final month of the EWSS. If the employer no longer qualifies, it should deregister for EWSS through ROS with effect from the following day and cease claiming the subsidy. If the employer becomes aware that it will not meet the eligibility criteria before the end of the month - for example, because it receives an unexpected donation or grant - it should deregister immediately and cease to claim subsidies.
If circumstances change in a later month and the employer is again eligible, it can re-register and claim from the date of re-registration. It is not possible to backdate the claim to include the period of deregistration.
Which employees can an employer claim for?
A subsidy can be claimed in respect of employees on the payroll of an eligible business who are in receipt of gross weekly wages of between €151.50 and €1,462 during the period of the EWSS.
Certain categories of employee are specifically excluded from the scheme, including:
- proprietary directors – however, the finance minister announced on 31 July that the EWSS could be claimed in respect of certain proprietary directors. Revenue has now confirmed that the EWSS can be claimed if the employer meets the eligibility criteria, the proprietary director is on the payroll of the eligible employer, and the proprietary director has been paid wages which were reported to Revenue on the payroll of the eligible employer at any point between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020.
Where a person is a proprietary director of two or more eligible companies, a claim for EWSS can only be submitted in respect of a single company. In this scenario, the proprietary director will be required to elect one company for the purposes of making EWSS claims for the duration of the scheme. The election will be deemed to be made on the first submission of an EWSS claim in respect of the proprietary director. Once the election is made, it cannot be changed for the period of the scheme.
- connected parties - who were not on the payroll and paid at any time between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020. This term is quite broad and includes brothers, sisters, linear ancestors and descendants, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews of an individual or their spouse. A person will also be treaded as 'connected' to a company if they alone, or together with their connected parties, exercise or control more than 50% of the issued share capital or voting rights, the greater part of distributions or the greater parts of assets distributed on winding up.
In addition, the EWSS should not be claimed for employees working in a business division not expected to suffer a 30% reduction, or employees employed otherwise than as part of a business such as housekeepers, gardeners and other domestic employees.
Safeguards will be put in place to minimise abuse of the scheme. These safeguards are to ensure that employers do not lay off an employee only to replace them with two or more employees each of whom work less hours with a lower wage, other than for bona fide commercial reasons; and to prevent the manipulation of payroll including deferring, suspending, accruing, increasing or decreasing gross wages that would normally be payable with a view to securing a wage subsidy payment or an increase in the amount of a wage subsidy payment.
Employees excluded from the TWSS
According to the Revenue guidelines, as seasonal employees and new hires were excluded from the TWSS, EWSS eligible employers can backdate a claim for EWSS to 1 July 2020 in certain limited circumstances:
- the employer was not eligible for TWSS; or
- the employer had employees not eligible for TWSS. However, this does not extend to employees whose net wages exceeded the TWSS threshold due to tapering.
Revenue expects to pay these claims in mid-September as part of a 'sweepback' exercise. Future EWSS payments will be made monthly in arrears thereafter, and as soon as practicable after the payroll return filing date.
What is the rate of subsidy payable?
The rate of weekly wage subsidy the employer will receive per paid eligible employee is as follows: