20th May 2021

HMRC writes to 10,000 employers regarding possible CJRS errors

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The UK’s furlough scheme, properly known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has now been with us for more than a year now. And even those employers who haven’t furloughed staff can not fail to have picked up on just how complicated the system can be.

And as we all know, with complexity comes mistakes.  Most often, though not always as I will highlight later, those mistakes are genuine, with either a slip of the finger causing a typo, or a genuine misunderstanding of the rules. 

HMRC has now announced that it is writing to 10,000 employers who it thinks may have made a mistakes with their furlough claims. The letter will come from HMRC’s Taxpayer Protection Taskforce, which was set up to detect and investigate wrong or fraudulent claims including those under the CJRS.

The Taxpayer Protection Taskforce will be manned by more than 1,250 HMRC employees. With HMRC’s annual report revealing that up to £3.5 billion in CJRS payments may have been claimed fraudulently or as a result of error, these letters are likely to only be the first step in a bid to address furlough fraud.  Businesses who have claimed under the furlough scheme should make sure they comply with their obligations and prepare for potential enquiries by HMRC.

HMRC has published guidance on how to pay back CJRS grants which have been overclaimed, or are no longer needed.

As if to prove a point, it has been widely reported that two people have been arrested in connection with an HMRC investigation into suspected fraudulent use of the CJRS errors believed to amount to £3.4 million.

Bank accounts holding over £6 million belonging to the individuals have been frozen by HMRC, following a search carried out by its Taxpayer Protection Taskforce.

Recent HMRC statistics reveal that over £61 billion has been claimed through the CJRS since its introduction, supporting 11.5 million furloughed jobs across 1.3 million employers.

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