The bounce back loans, CBILS and CLBILS for larger companies were some of the most generous schemes available to businesses suffering from the impact of lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, paying out a total of £80 billion to help keep businesses afloat.
The Bounce Back Loan Scheme was the largest of these, paying out £47.36 billion in total to around 1.6m recipients, with amounts up to £50,000 available to companies that would have faced real financial difficulty without them.
Due to the speed that these loan schemes were implemented, and the fact that the Government backed them 100% – meaning taxpayers would pick up the tab for any loans that were not repaid – there was predicted to be a considerable amount of fraud. PwC initial suggested there would be around £4.9 billion of fraud associated with the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, which it subsequently reduced to £3.5 billion.
Lord Agnew, the former minister for counter-fraud described the oversight of the loan payments by the British Business Bank as “nothing short of woeful” when he spoke about his resignation from that role in the House of Lords. He highlighted what he described as “schoolboy errors” such as more than 1,000 companies receiving these loans despite not even trading when the pandemic hit.
However, for the millions of companies these loans helped, there has been considerable benefit. They were applied for through business banks and you could get up to 25% of the self-certified annual turnover, or £50,000 – whichever was less. The biggest appeal for many though was the 2.5% interest rate – lower than many other business loans available – and the option to repay the loan over six years, although you can request that this is extended to 10 years, with the Government covering interest payments for the first 12 months.
One important thing for companies to remember is that the interest on these loans can be offset against tax, which is one benefit. But there are a few banana skins to avoid if you need additional lending within the period that you have the loan, according to the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT).
It said: “Be particularly careful if your business needs any other source of funding during the life of the BBL taking any form of security, mortgage, charge pledge, lien or encumbrance over its assets whatsoever. You must check this is allowed under the loan terms, and often it is not.”
It was possible to use the BBLS to pay dividends if the business has retained profits but was struggling with cash flow, but if your company was to become insolvent then you may be asked to repay these dividends as it is not possible to pay a dividend from an insolvent company. Any personal use of these loans could also result in the requirement to repay the money used, which potentially puts your personal assets at risk.
If you are concerned that your BBLS may not have been used for the correct purpose, or that business risks could leave your company insolvent and you personally exposed due to the way the loan was used, then please contact us and we will explain the best course of action.