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HMRC outlines intention to recover £1 billion in fraudulent furlough funds

15 June 2021

HMRC has announced that it will recover over £1 billion in fraudulently claimed furlough cash over the next two years.

UK employers have claimed more than £60 billion in furlough funds since the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in March 2020. The CJRS was extended in the 2021 Budget until 30 September.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently revealed that workers in the hospitality sector were most likely to still be on furlough. At peak use of the CJRS, 91% of pub and bar staff were furloughed. 

HMRC stated that it intends to launch a handful of criminal investigations into suspected cases of serious CJRS fraud.

A spokesperson for HMRC said: ‘The CJRS has provided a lifeline to millions of people across the UK and fraudulent claims are unacceptable. It is taxpayers’ money and fraud limits our ability to support people and deprives public services of essential funding.

‘We’d ask anyone concerned that an employer might be abusing the scheme, or anyone with information about suspected fraud, to please contact us. All information is assessed and the most appropriate course of action taken.’

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Fifth SEISS grant will be open to claims from late July

08 June 2021

The fifth Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant covering May 2021 to September 2021 will open to claims from late July, HMRC has confirmed.

To be eligible for the grant, an individual must be self-employed or a member of a partnership. They must have traded in the tax year 2019/2020 and submitted their tax return on or before 2 March 2021, and also have traded in the tax year 2020/21.

The amount of the fifth grant will be determined by how much an individual’s turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021.

HMRC will provide more information and support by the end of June 2021 to help individuals work out how their turnover was affected.

The online claims service for the fifth SEISS grant will be open from late July 2021. In mid-July HMRC will contact individuals who are eligible based on their tax returns to give them a date from which they can make their claim.

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Tax credits customers should be alert to potential scams

02 June 2021

Tax credits customers should be vigilant and alert to potential scams, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned, as the remaining annual renewal packs will arrive in the post this week.

In the 12 months to 30 April 2021, HMRC responded to more than 1,154,300 referrals of suspicious contact from the public. More than 576,960 of these offered bogus tax rebates.

In the same period, HMRC has worked with telecoms companies and Ofcom to remove more than 3,000 malicious telephone numbers, and with internet service providers to take down over 15,700 malicious web pages. HMRC responded to 443,033 reports of phone scams in total, up 135% on the previous year.

Anyone doing their tax credits renewal who has received a tax or benefits scam email or text might be tricked into thinking it was from HMRC and share their personal details with criminals, or even transfer money for a bogus overpayment.

HMRC’s Cyber Security Operations identifies and closes down scams every day. The department has pioneered the use in government of technical controls to stop its helpline numbers being spoofed, so that fraudsters can no longer make it appear that they are calling from those HMRC numbers.

For more information, please visit Tax Credits Scam.

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HMRC's VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme to close in June

26 May 2021

Businesses that deferred VAT payments last year have one month left to join online and pay in monthly instalments under the VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme, HMRC has confirmed.

The online portal for the new payment scheme will close on 21 June 2021.

Over half a million businesses deferred £34 billion in VAT payments due between March and June 2020 under the VAT Payment Deferral Scheme. Businesses had until 31 March 2021 to pay this deferred VAT or, if they could not afford to do so, they could go online from 23 February to set up a new payment scheme and pay by monthly instalments to spread the cost.

Commenting on the scheme, Jim Harra, HMRC’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Businesses that deferred paying their VAT last spring have until 21 June to join the VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme online. They should act now to avoid missing out on this opportunity to spread payment of their deferred VAT across monthly, interest-free, instalments.

‘The new payment scheme is part of the Government package of support worth over £350 billion to help protect millions of jobs and businesses during the pandemic and as we emerge on the path to recovery.

‘HMRC will continue to do all we can to help businesses as they reopen and rebuild.’

Register for the scheme.

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Data finds HMRC received 91,000 calls to report fraud in first months of pandemic

17 May 2021

Data published by insurer PfP has revealed that HMRC received 91,000 calls to report instances of fraud in the first nine months of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

PfP stated that many calls were to report abuse of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, and others were to log allegations of furlough fraud.

The insurer predicts that more intensive investigations will be carried out and tougher penalties may be handed out by HMRC in the coming months.

‘With so many fraud allegations being made to HMRC during the COVID-19 crisis, there is no doubt that many of them will end up being false,’ said Kevin Igoe, Managing Director at PfP.

‘Months of lockdown restrictions have already put many businesses under huge pressure. HMRC investigations can be costly, time-consuming and can cause enormous stress for the owner-managers and directors involved.’

A spokesperson for HMRC said: ‘Since the start of the pandemic, HMRC has worked consistently to support businesses during what we know has been a uniquely challenging time for them, while continuing to tackle tax fraud and avoidance to maintain a level playing field. The suggestion that we are going to arbitrarily step-up investigations and pile unnecessary pressure on businesses as they seek to recover from the impact of coronavirus is completely false.’

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HMRC sets out penalty regime for SEISS abuse

06 May 2021

The fourth Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant is now live and HMRC has set out the penalties for abuse.

An overclaimed SEISS grant includes any amount of grant which the self-employed were not entitled to receive or was more than the amount HMRC said the applicant was entitled to when the claim was made.

Overpayments must be notified to HMRC within 90 days of receipt of an SEISS grant.

When deciding the amount of any penalty, HMRC will take account whether the taxpayer knew they were entitled to the SEISS grant when they received it and when it became repayable or chargeable to tax because the individual’s circumstances changed.

The HMRC guidance states: ‘If you knew you were not entitled to your grant and did not tell us in the notification period, the law treats your failure as deliberate and concealed. This means we can charge a penalty of up to 100% on the amount of the SEISS grant that you were not entitled to receive or keep.

‘If you did not know you were not entitled to your grant when you received it, we will only charge you a penalty if you have not repaid the grant by 31 January 2022.’

Applications for the fourth grant can be made here.