The Government has made numerous financial provisions to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), also known as the furlough scheme. The scheme has meant that many businesses have been able to continue paying their staff whilst they haven’t been able to operate at full capacity, or at all. Fundamentally, it has allowed them to retain valued employees whilst saving on monthly costs, of which, payroll is often one of the largest.
CJRS claims currently stand upwards of £46bn according to Government statistics, with almost 10 million jobs being furloughed at some point during the pandemic. Understandably, the Government is cautious of fraudulent claims. Not only because it means people are abusing the system, but because it means a higher bill that the Government must cover the cost of. Given the UK’s borrowing is at an all-time high, this is something the Chancellor would prefer to avoid.
Here, we look at what the publication of CJRS claims means for employers and what you can do about it, as told by Ercan Demiralay, Partner at Wellers.
What is changing?
In the latest update to the scheme, from the 25th February HMRC started publishing the information of which organisations have made furlough claims. Under the changes, HMRC now publishes on its website:
- The names of employers that have made CJRS claims from 1st December 2020
- The company number
- The CJRS claim value (within a banded range)
What can you do about it?
In recent years HMRC has been cracking down on fraudulent claims and states that this move is part of its transparency commitment. They also claim that it will help deter any businesses from making false furlough claims. The banded ranges are:
This may alarm some business owners who feel that this information shouldn’t be made available to the public. There is an option to request that your details aren’t published on the grounds of potential intimidation – this claim can be made on the Government website.
However, for the claim to be successful, the business must prove that HMRC publishing the information would result in a risk of violence or intimidation to the business owner or the people they live with. Evidence accepted for these claims, include:
- Why the publication may result in violence or intimidation
- Details of a police incident number (if the business owner has already been threatened or attacked)
- Proof of a threat or attack
- Documentation of any disruption or targeting
- Any other supporting materials
Unfortunately, the business owner preferring that the information was not published doesn’t qualify as a valid reason to HMRC. It is not simply an opt-out situation.
The publication of this information not only means that the public can see which employers have claimed, but it also allows employees to see whether their employer has made a furlough claim to cover their wages. Recent headlines on the matter include hedge fund boss James Matthews claiming to cover the wages of six employees of his Scottish shooting estate. So, it’s easy to see why the change may make some feel slightly uneasy.
What is important to remember though, is that the scheme is there to be used for a reason. So long as employers are not abusing the system by making fraudulent claims, there is nothing wrong with using it to help support businesses during one of the most volatile financial and trading times in our recent history.
More on small business news and the Spring Budget 2021.
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