The Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) continues to work remotely. The Registry is working on an entirely digital basis and document submission is through the electronic filing portal Easy Companies Registry and by email for the JFSC. The Registry is also in the process of rolling out a new platform called myRegistry.
2. Can searches be conducted?
Company searches may be conducted in the usual manner, through the electronic Companies Register.
3. Certificates of good standing – if and how these are being conducted
Certificates of good standing, whilst available electronically, are not a customary feature in relation to the execution of transactions with Jersey companies.
4. Other searches – how are these being conducted?
Bankruptcy enquiries continue to be serviced by the Viscount’s Department but contingencies are in place should they be unable to respond to enquiries. There is an online list of the bankrupt estates under the Viscount’s administration.
5. Court sessions and position (including filings and hearings)
The courts are operating normally but there are requirements for social distancing and mask wearing in the various local courts. As noted above however, the courts are still operating normally and save where a party or a representative is self-isolating, hearings are taking place with the parties present rather than virtually. Jersey’s Royal Court did put in place revised procedures and practice directions for civil and commercial matters which were designed to ensure that the Court could continue to operate effectively and safely through the Covid-19 crisis.
The Jersey Court service has converted a space within the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society (RJAHS) building to host Assize (Jury) Trials up until the end of March 2021. The first jury trial in this revised setting commenced on 11 January 2021.
Jury trials require a Jury of 12 members of the public. In order to provide for physical distancing, the annex building of the RJAHS will be used as the Royal Court, with the main hall and administration building supporting the Jury and witness waiting areas as well as the Jury retiring room.
The Court has also accelerated certain elements of the Court’s digitisation project to facilitate working during the COVID-19 disruption and beyond. The Court has also issued revised protocols in relation to filing electronic and hard copy documents with the Court. Procedures have been introduced to permit hearings to take place by video link or by telephone where appropriate and revised practice directions have been issued including guidance in relation to tenancy disputes for commercial and residential property. Revised procedures have also been issued for Magistrates and Family Court matters to ensure that those Courts can continue to administer justice and deal effectively with criminal and family law matters.
6. Local Restrictions
The island is embarking on a gradual relaxation of the current Covid-19 measures in controlled settings, Since Friday 18 December 2020, the Chief Minister announced that unless critical to the running of their business, islanders must work from home if they have the means to do so. Jersey entered Stage 4 of its release from lockdown on 15 March. On 31 March the Jersey government announced an accelerated timeline for the reconnection plan. For more information please click here.
This change follows the receipt of new advice and takes into account the low rate of Coronavirus cases, the high level of testing and contact tracing, and the success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Jersey.
For a copy of the reconnection roadmap which contains the proposed date for each stage out of lockdown, please see here.
Most people continue to work from home and this will remain the default operating model until further notice, however a phased awakening from the lockdown has commenced with the majority of non-essential businesses re-opened on Wednesday 3 February 2021 and businesses offering well-being, beauty and cosmetic services (including hairdressers and nail salons) reopened on Wednesday 10 February. From Wednesday 17 February, faith groups have been able to meet in groups of up to 40 and controlled outdoor sports gatherings for children under 18 restarted for up to 35 people (this has now been increased to 45 people (adults included). Since 22 February hospitality venues reopened, subject to many stringent measures. Staff working in hospitality are being offered free Covid-19 tests before returning to work. From 15 March, indoor exercise and swimming is allowed subject to 2m social distancing rules, in addition to controlled outdoor sports gatherings. People are also allowed to invite up to ten people in their homes (not including children under the age of 5). The local schools re-opened for the spring term and the vaccination programme for older students and teachers is well on its way. It is envisaged that all office staff will gradually be returning to the workplace between 12 April and 10 May. The current Coronavirus Advice for Business may be found here.
Indeed the Jersey Evening Post claimed that Jersey’s Covid-19 vaccination roll-out ranked the island at third in the world for the speed of its roll out. The administration of the second vaccinations have commenced.
7. Any travel restrictions
As noted above the hospitality circuit breaker which has been in place since Friday 4 December 2020 and which led to an increase in restrictions on the island is slowly being released and the majority of non-essential businesses re-opened on 3 February 2021. The Government of Jersey has advised Islanders to continue to work from home for the time being and screening will be intensified by testing people more often and by including more groups of workers in the screening programme. General guidance has been published to assist businesses with safe operation, as well as specific guidance for a number of sectors. A testing programme has been approved by Government which permits airlines and ferry companies to operate regular services to and from Jersey. The programme requires travellers arriving in Jersey to follow a strict process involving pre-registration before travel, followed by either swab-testing or self-isolation on arrival. Government has produced a risk classification which groups countries into three groups with increasing levels of self-isolation and testing for arrivals from those countries depending upon current risk levels. The risk classification is regularly reviewed and updated. Currently passengers arriving from green countries will have to self-isolate on the island until a negative Covid-19 test is confirmed. As all testing will be done on island, it is envisaged that this will take up to 12 hours. Currently all destinations are considered to be red but the government has advised that the old regime will be reinstated from 26 April in relation to the UK and Crown Dependencies.
Jersey has introduced a smartphone app designed to alert users when they have been near another app user who has recently discovered that they have Covid-19. The app uses Bluetooth technology and “Close proximity” is defined as within two metres for 15 minutes or more to a positive case of coronavirus. The app is anonymous and only retains necessary data for a 14-day period. Any information subsequently passed on to the contact-tracing team when users contact them may be held in line with local public health law. It has recently been upgraded to include more versions of Apple handsets so it can reach more people.
The Jersey Covid Alert app will work alongside the island’s current contact-tracing system to create another level of protection against community seeding of the virus. New government measures have increased the resources available to both the local testing and the contact tracing regimes.
8. Other Temporary Regulatory Measures
In light of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 virus, the JFSC originally relaxed certain timing obligations and granted many extensions for various filing requirements. However recently the JSFC noted that most timings and processes have reverted to pre-covid work practices including time frames for onsite examinations. The JFSC has capped at GBP55 late filing fees for delayed annual returns until 2021. Processing of paper returns is delayed due to the remote working procedures in place, but good standing certificates will be available for companies whose returns have not been processed. The JFSC has also given a three month extension in relation to certain other regulatory filings; given guidance on ANLA, capital and financial resources, outsourcing, cyber and financial crime and certain notifications. Further details can be found here. The Companies Registry has announced that it will consider applications from public companies to delay the requirement to file audited accounts where it is satisfied that the delay is as a result of the difficulties arising from the pandemic. The JFSC have also provided businesses with additional guidance to ensure information is completed fully and accurately found here. Recently the JFSC also announced that it is proposing an early reduction on annual confirmation fees for local companies in light of Covid and is also proposing to change how it charges Registry fees in the future.
After initially postponing its examination programme for four weeks, the JFSC has published guidance on how it will continue with a programme of remote examinations, on a revised timetable which has been further updated. Further information can be found here.
The Government of Jersey launched a loan guarantee scheme to provide additional financial support to local businesses facing disruption as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The scheme has also been agreed in coordination with the Governments of Guernsey and the Isle of Man. The scheme will be operated through clearing banks who lend to local businesses in Jersey. In addition the Government of Jersey obtained a two year GBP500 million revolving credit facility from a consortium of local banks to provide the Minister for Treasury and Resources the maximum amount of flexibility to allocate expenditure in support of households and the economy during the pandemic and the recovery from it.
Phase 2 Government of Jersey’s Co-Funded Payroll Scheme offers employers and self-employed workers a subsidy of 80% of their wages, up to a cap. The Government of Jersey believes Jersey’s scheme is among the most generous in the world, on a level with that offered by the Government of New Zealand. The Jersey scheme has currently protected over 16,000 local jobs. Figures issued on 22 March by the Government of Jersey shows that at its peak, around one-third of Jersey’s workforce benefited from the £81 million paid through the Co-Funded Payroll Schemes between and March and August 2020. At least a quarter of the jobs supported were in the hospitality business and a fifth in the construction industry.
Recognising challenges that may be faced by local businesses in difficult trading conditions, the Viscount, who is the administrator of bankruptcy (désastre) proceedings, has issued a Guidance Note alongside a Practice Statement from the Law Society of Jersey on the application of and issues surrounding liability for wrongful trading, intended to assist directors of a Jersey company to understand the position and what steps they may wish to consider depending on the particular circumstances of their company. The JFSC have also been in discussion with a number of local retail banks to ensure that they have measures in place to support customers who may be experiencing difficulties die to Covid-19. Written guidance has also been provided to all credit providers on the island. The Government of Jersey has also advised that any businesses operating from properties owned by the Government of Jersey have being given additional support to reduce the risk of their insolvency as a consequence of Covid-19.
During the pandemic, the local government has offered all its business tenants a rent deferral. Under the new Government as Landlord Policy, alternative concessions such as rent holidays and early lease terminations will also be considered.
The Government of Jersey has also introduced many fiscal easing initiatives for the local economy and arranged for funds in identifiable dormant banks to be distributed to local charities to support projects that benefit people affected directly by the impact of Covid-19. There is also a new visitor attractions and events scheme which has been established to assist local visitor attractions with 80% of their fixed business costs until the end of April 2021 subject to the fulfilment of certain criteria.
9. Implications for economic substance compliance and residency
Where companies’ operating practices have to be adjusted to compensate for the COVID-19 outbreak, the Comptroller will not determine under Article 6, Taxation (Companies- Economic Substance) (Jersey) Law 2019, that a company has failed the economic substance test. Where a company incorporated in another jurisdiction has been tax resident on the basis of control and management in Jersey, and the Comptroller considers that any changes dictated by COVID-19 are temporary, then this will not disturb the determination of corporate tax residence from that prevailing before this outbreak. This treatment will only apply to adjustments to the normal operating practices, and to the extent required to mitigate the threats from this outbreak. More information can be found here.
The Government of Jersey has made a number of reliefs available to businesses operating in Jersey and individual residents on account of COVID-19 including the postponement of GST payments and recognition of exceptional circumstances affecting the residence of individuals.