COVID-19 help for small businesses in four EU countries

  • April 24, 2020

There are vast quantities of information about how governments are helping small businesses survive the COVID-19 crisis. Support, protect and safeguard your business with this summary from Xolo.

The governments across Europe now have comprehensive help and support packages for small business owners to take advantage of. Locating this information can be time consuming and frustrating, as the practical information you need today, is not in one central location.

Xolo understands the pressure all freelancers, small businesses owners and digital nomads are under. This summary collects together selected information which may help you to identify the help available in Germany, Spain, the UK and France.

We will be updating this information, as new initiatives are developed by the European governments. Bookmark this page now, to ensure you always have a reliable source of information, as you protect your business through the COVID-19 crisis.


The German government is making a number of packages available to support businesses through the COVID-19 crisis. A new state fund (Wirtschaftstabilisierungsfonds, WSF) of €400 billion will be used to guarantee loans to companies to help them remain viable. An additional €100 billion will also be used for the German government to buy a stake in some companies that are struggling during the crisis. More information is available here.

Small business support

The state bank KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau) is running a loan scheme aimed at the small business sector. A fund of €50 billion is available for non-refundable support if a business has fewer than five employees. The grant can be up to €9,000 for three months. Businesses with over 10 employees can apply for help up to €15,000 for the same period. More information is available here

Support for freelancers across Germany is comprehensive. The ‘liquidity assistance’ on offer is being administered by KfW. More information about how to apply is here

Employee protection

As other European countries are protecting the incomes of workers, Germany has also stated 60% of normal net wages will be paid by the state. Employees with at least one child, will see the payment level increase to 67%

The Federal Government has also made changes to the reduced hours compensation benefit (Kurzarbeitergeld). The scheme’s eligibility requirements are being loosened: the ratio of employees in a company that would be affected by shorter hours is reduced by 10%. This compensation will also be made available to temporary and agency workers. And all social security payments will be reimbursed.

Tax and social security

All social security contributions will be reduced by 100%. In addition, the deadline for filing personal income tax returns is extended to 31 May 2020 from its usual deadline of the 28th February 2020. Penalties for late filing are all suspended. Insolvency filing is also suspended. More information is in this guide


The general package of measures Spain has announced so far, is worth €214 billion. The self-employed are generally being treated in the same way as the unemployed. They can apply for benefits from the state. You can read a general overview of the measures here.

These groups can also apply to have their mortgage repayments suspended. The Spanish government is also stating that its courts will not take petitions for business insolvencies from creditors unless the business in question authorises this.

Tax and social security

The postponement of tax debt is possible up to a maximum of €30,000. Social security payments can also be suspended without interest being added to the outstanding amount. It may also be possible to gain an exemption from any payments due, if your business has failed. More information is available from the social security authorities.

Utility supplies are being guaranteed. Tenants cannot be evicted from their homes. Homeowners can suspend their mortgage payments if they can agree this with their lenders. Help with mortgages is available if you have lost at least 40% of your income. Advice is available from the Ministry of Employment.

Business support

The Spanish Council of Ministers (Consejo de Ministros) has announced a fund worth €20 billion to support Spanish enterprises. All businesses no matter their size (including freelancers and micro businesses – autónomos) can apply for help under the Loan Guarantee scheme. The scheme will be managed by Spanish Official Credit Institute (Instituto de Crédito Oficial). More information about support for businesses is here.

United Kingdom

The UK government has announced a number of measures to help employees and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.

Coronavirus job retention scheme

If both the employer and employee agree, an employee can be kept on payroll and ‘furloughed’ during the COVID-19 crisis. The UK government will pay 80% of the normal salary of each employee up to a maximum of £2,500. More information is on the government website. You can make a claim now.

If you are a UK self-employed person you may be eligible to apply for a grant (Self-Employed Income Support Scheme). The government plans to pay a taxable grant to the self-employed persons who have suffered because of the coronavirus. It is worth 80% of your average monthly profits over the last three years. The maximum monthly grant is up to £ 2,500. If you qualify, the HMRC will contact you directly.

The salary paid in March will be used to decide on the total amount that will be paid once the scheme is open to applications. Employers and employees can check their eligibility on the government’s website.

Anyone claiming Universal Credit and anyone on maternity leave should check their eligibility. More information about how to make a claim is here.

Anyone that is self-employed can in some circumstances also make a claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. However, directors of their own companies are not eligible for this scheme.

Tax payment postponement

VAT payments can be deferred. Self-Assessment tax that would be due for payment in July can also be deferred.

Business rates relief

Businesses rates holidays for anyone trading in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors can apply for tax relief. This only applies to England.

Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have separate schemes run by their devolved governments.

Nursery business should check if they are eligible for any rates relief.

Business interruption loan scheme

This scheme is for small to medium-sized businesses who can access funds up to £5 million. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) supports small and medium-sized businesses, with an annual turnover of up to £45 million, to access loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to 6 years.

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees. This means smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

Larger businesses can also apply to this scheme. The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) will support large businesses, with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million, to access loans of up to £25 million. 


If your business turnover has significantly reduced, you can apply for a grant of up to €1,500 initially and then later a potential additional €2,000. If you qualify, up to 70% of your income can be claimed. You can make a claim on the website. The French government is using your business turnover in March 2020 compared to March 2019 to determine what your actual income is and, therefore, what you can claim. You will need your espace particulier and your statement (attestation sur l’honneur) stating your business had no debt on December 31st 2019.

Your business must have no more than 10 employees and, have a turnover of less than €1 million per year. You can obtain more information from your Chambre de Commerce and Chambre de Metiers.

State guaranteed loans are also now available. You need to make a formal application for these loans on the government’s website.

Businesses that pay taxes in France can have their tax and social security payments deferred. More information about this scheme is on the URSSAF website. If you work in agriculture you need to contact MSA to request similar help with your taxes.

Assistance for small businesses is also available from Action Sanitaire et Sociale. A sample application form is here to check you have all the information needed and, your business is eligible for help.

The French government has also made support for new start-up businesses a priority. The €4 billion fund will offer a range of support to the small and micro business sector. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said: “This fund is for very small companies and independent entrepreneurs whose activities have either been stopped or considerably reduced by the coronavirus economic crisis.” The fund includes bridging loans, tax return prepayments and innovation loans.

Bridging loans

In partnership with public investment bank Bpifrance the French government have created an investment fund of €80 million funded by the Bpifrance’s PIA (Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir) and managed by Bpifrance – to assist start-ups which were in the process of raising new funds or were ready to start a new fund-raising round. Bridging loans from €100,000 to €5 million are available.

Tax return repayments

French companies and start-ups can get early repayment of their Corporation Tax and VAT credits for 2020. In addition, start-ups – as small companies and/or innovative businesses – are entitled to immediate repayment by the French tax authorities of the 2019 research and development investments tax (crédit d’impôt recherche). Start-ups may then request early repayment without necessarily having to wait for the filing of the annual tax returns. This represents an injection of funds of €1.5 billion.

Innovation loans

Bpifrance is accelerating its support for companies innovating with a €270 million fund. Those companies that had applied for funding for innovation but had not yet been approved before the COVID-19 crisis will be funded. Companies already receiving funding can also apply to take a postponement of their payments of up to six months. Freelancers can also see specific information about the help available to them on the Sécurité Sociale website and micro entrepreneurs can see the help available to them on the Auto Entrepreneur website.

Here to help and support you

At Xolo, we understand the testing times all freelancers and small business owners are going through. The COVID-19 crisis means taking control and doing all you can to reduce the impact the virus has on your business and family.

You can read more about how you can manage your business through the crisis from our coronavirus FAQs.

We will be publishing regular blogs on topics to help you better manage your business. And take a look at our articles which cover a wide-range of subjects to help you run a more efficient and profitable business.

Xolo is all about the community of freelancers and small business owners across Europe and beyond. Don’t forget to join our community to change experiences with likeminded entrepreneurs.

Stay safe.

Note: The information contained in this document is for guidance only. The information below is not legal or tax advice. Xolo takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided. You should not rely upon the information contained in this article to make any business, financial or legal decisions before you have taken qualified financial or legal advice in your own country.