HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has written to employers who it believes have overclaimed on the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, asking them to return payments or face a fine.
The tax authority identified about 3,000 employers, out of a total 1.2m who applied for government help during the coronavirus crisis, that it believes have made a mistake with their claim.
Mistakes include claiming more than they were entitled or and not meeting conditions for a claim in the first place.
Under the scheme, employers could claim a grant covering 80 per cent of the wages of a furloughed employee, subject to a cap of £2,500 a month, starting on March 1.
HMRC stated: “We will not seek out innocent errors and small mistakes for compliance action. We will act, however, against anyone who deliberately sets out to defraud the system or claims money they aren’t entitled to.
“This was an entirely new scheme and many employers were coping with the most difficult circumstances they’d ever faced. We appreciate mistakes happen, particularly in these circumstances, including claiming too much.”
Employers are able to correct their mistake without being hit by a penalty if they notify HMRC and repay the money on time.
The deadline for doing so is the latest of the following:
- within 90 days of receiving the CJRS money they’re not entitled to;
- within 90 days of when circumstances changed so that they were no longer entitled to keep the CJRS grant; or
- 20 October 2020 if they received CJRS money they’re not entitled to, or if their circumstances changed, on or before 22 July.
In a similar vein, last week (August 11) the tax authority admitted a number of self-employed individuals had been paid coronavirus support grants in error and some may have received an incorrect amount.
HMRC said the issue affected a small number of people who claimed from the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme but confirmed it would not look to recoup any payments made in error.
The SEISS first launched in May and is a mirror scheme to the government's furlough scheme.
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