Trading Online Voucher: the Complete Guide for 2020 – Updated 23rd September 2020 – In this article I am describing the application process for the Trading Online Voucher scheme (TOV), available through your Local Enterprise Office (LEO).
You will learn what the TOV is, who can apply, what the rules, terms and conditions are and most importantly how to apply.
You will also find the the direct links to your LEO with all the upcoming seminars or webinars.
If you like this article, you will also like my article Working from Home: a Guide for Employers and Employees.
Trading Online Voucher: Numbers and Stats
According to Enterprise Ireland, only 23% of Irish small businesses have an ecommerce functionality on their website or as part of their online presence.
The percentage is even lower for businesses with less than ten employees (source: localenterprise.ie).
In practice, this means that about 70% of online purchases are made in markets other than Ireland.
How does this translate in actual numbers?
If you consider ecommerce as the selling of physical goods through a digital channel via a desktop or mobile device, the ecommerce market in Ireland amounts to €2,821m in 2020 (source: statista.com).
Revenue (pre-COVID-19) is expected to grow 8.6% year-on-year with fashion leading the pack with a market volume of €789m in 2020.
As of May 21st 2020, the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) received +3,000 applications for their Trading Online Voucher (TOV), which led to +1,250 approvals (source: bizplus.ie).
The average grant amounted to €2,300.
Another interesting stat comes from the IE Domain Registry (IEDR), which saw a 30% increase year-on-year in .ie domain registrations in Q2 2020.
Trading Online Voucher: General Questions
What is the Trading Online Voucher?
The TOV is a funding initiative by the LEO under the Government’s National Digital Strategy.
Funding for up to €2,500 is available to small businesses that want to improve their online sales and reach new markets.
Who Can Apply for the Trading Online Voucher?
The Trading Online Voucher is for small businesses in the Republic of Ireland that have been trading for at least six months, have no more than 10 employees and less than €2 million in turnover.
Trading Online Voucher: Rules
What Are the Terms of the TOV?
The following is the list of terms to avail of the Trading Online Voucher scheme (source: localenterprise.ie).
The most important things to consider are two: the maximum value for the voucher is €2,500 or 90% of the eligible expense (net of VAT) and you need to get the approval before incurring any expense.
The full terms to consider are:
- Vouchers will have a maximum value of €2,500 or 90% of eligible expenditure (Net of VAT), whichever is the lesser
- Voucher approval must be gained prior to incurring any expense
- Own labour is not considered an eligible expense
- Third party costs only will be considered
- All third party/supplier invoices must contain proper business details (e.g. Tax and Business Registration details).
What Are the Eligible Criteria for the TOV?
To avail of the TOV your business must meet the following criteria (source: localenterprise.ie):
- Limited Online Trading presence
- Less than 10 employees
- Turnover less than €2m
- Applicant business must be trading for at least 6 months
- Business must be located in the catchment area of a LEO that is participating in this scheme
What Projects Are Ineligible for the TOV?
Projects that fall under one or more of the following categories are not eligible for the Trading Online Voucher (source: localenterprise.ie):
- Charities, commercial semi-state companies, trade associations or company representation bodies such as Chambers of Commerce
- Not for Profit’ or social entrepreneurship applicants operating under a commercial domain
- IT companies ir agencies
- Conferences and Seminars
- Projects that are not compliant with public policy
- Duplication of support for projects which would be eligible for assistance from other State Agencies of EU funded Operational Programmes
- Companies with more than 10 people
- Projects deemed to be capable of proceeding in any event without scheme assistance i.e. deadweight
- Projects essentially comprising importation and distribution
What Can I Use the TOV for?
The TOV scheme is meant for helping with the costs of digital marketing strategies, ecommerce websites and app development.
You can use the Trading Online Voucher for one or more of the following:
- IT, digital marketing or digital strategy consultation
- Development or upgrade of an e-commerce website
- Implementation of online payment facilities or booking systems
- Purchase of Internet related software
- Purchase of online advertising (for up to 30% of the approved Voucher costs and it can only be drawn down in one payment phase)
- Development of an app (or multi-platform webpages)
- Development of a digital marketing strategy
- Implementing a digital marketing strategy
- Training/skills development specifically to establish and manage an on-line trading activity
What Can’t I Use the TOV for?
The TOV scheme cannot be used for the development of a brochure website*, for the purchase of a service that is not internet-related or for anything other than online trading.
Can I Use the TOV for an Online Subscription?
Yes, you can use the Trading Online Voucher scheme for ‘subscriptions to low cost online retail platform solutions’ (source: localenterprise.ie).
Trading Online Voucher: How to Apply
To apply for the TOV scheme you will need to follow to steps:
- Attending the TOV Information Seminar (or Webinar)
- Submitting the TOV Application Form* along with quotes from three (3) suppliers and evidence of duration of trading
*Note from the author: ‘For applications received from April 7th 2020 until September 30th 2020 further eligibility, terms and conditions apply’ (source: localenterprise.ie).
Trading Online Voucher Information Seminar
To avail of the TOV you must first attend the Trading Online Voucher Information Seminar*. At the seminar you will get information about the scheme and recommendations on how to get the best out of the funding available (source: localenterprise.ie):
Information sessions cover various topics, including developing a website, digital marketing, social media for business and search engine optimisation. The information provided is impartial and will help you decide on what trading online options, are right for your business.
Seminars are regularly held at your Local Enterprise Office (check the section Useful Links).
*Note from the author: currently the seminar has been replaced by a webinar.
How to Sign Up for the TOV Information Seminar?
You can sign up for the seminar* by visiting your Local Enterprise Office website:
- Click on Training and Events
- Click on the seminar you want to attend (eg Trading Online Voucher Webinar – Friday 22nd May 2020)
- Click on ‘Book Now’
*Note from the author: for those attending the webinar, login details with instructions on how to attend online will be emailed after you complete the online registration.
Trading Online Voucher Application Form
Where Can I Download the Application Form?
The Trading Online Voucher Application Form will be emailed to you after attending the mandatory seminar or webinar, provided you meet the eligibility criteria.
A sample form, for viewing purposes only, can be downloaded at this link.
Project Elements Details
In the Application Form, you will be asked to select the project elements details from a list, including:
- IT Consultation
- Project Management
- New ecommerce website (from scratch)
- Upgrade to existing ecommerce website
- Content management system
- App development
- Digital marketing strategy
- Online Advertising (for up to 30% of the approved voucher cost)
- Copywriting for the web
- Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Web analytics
What Documents Should I Send Along?
Along with the Application Form you will need to send:
- Copy of a quotation from three suppliers
- Evidence of duration of trading
If you can’t provide the three quotes, for example if there are multiple project components and getting three quotes is ‘overly burdensome’, this requirement might be waived. The application will then be evaluated on the basis of the quotes available.
If this is your case, it is recommended that you consult with LEO before submitting the application.
Can I Apply for a Second Voucher?
Yes, you can. If you have already availed of the Trading Online Voucher scheme you can now apply for a second voucher under the motivation of a ‘required upgrade’.
Trading Online Voucher: Approval Process
An evaluation committee will assess the application forms and make recommendations for the approval.
Recommendations are based on the following list of criteria:
- Eligibility for scheme
- Value added potential
- Export potential
- Job creation potential
- Financial sustainability
If your application is successful you will receive a letter of offer, which you can forward to your supplier of choice.
From the moment you receive the letter of offer, you will have three months to complete the work detailed in your application form.
A further one-month extension can be granted following an agreement with your LEO.
To receive the payment for your TOV application, you will have to submit the following to your Local Enterprise Office:
- Signed declaration from both yourself and the supplier of choice
- Your Company Registration Number (CRO)
- Tax Clearance Certificate
- Invoice from the supplier (with CRO, Tax Registration or VAT details)
- Bank statement showing evidence of payment for the invoice
- Declaration of project completion by the supplier
Please note all works needs to be done before claiming the payment.