Companies that made claims under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme but didn’t keep proper records will be the first to be investigated, warns tax and advisory firm Blick Rothenberg.
Fiona Fernie, a tax dispute resolution partner at the company, says: “ HMRC are investigating widespread fraud and are looking into thousands of claims that were made under the scheme and unfortunately businesses that did not keep proper records are the ones that are being scrutinised the most.
“Most have probably done nothing wrong, but a lack of records will cause suspicion and companies who have made claims or are going to do so under the extended scheme need to check both past and future claims and keep detailed records supporting those claims so that they can provide appropriate evidence if HMRC queries them."
Within days of the first ‘amnesty’ deadline passing for repayment of amounts overclaimed under the CJRS, HMRC has already swung into action, investigating claims where they believe that employers have claimed the wrong amount or were ineligible to claim.
The deadline for making the repayments was 20th October 2020 in respect of claims received prior to 22 July 2020 and for claims received after that date the deadlines for making repayments of amounts incorrectly claimed are 90 days after receipt of the funds.
Fiona adds: “ It is therefore vital that employers continue to check historical CJRS claims to ensure both the numerical accuracy of the claims and that they were justified in making them since the more of these deadlines are missed the greater the likelihood of HMRC imposing significant penalties."
With the extension of the scheme until 31st March 2021, Fiona reminds businesses to ensure they are compliant. Records required to be kept by HMRC include:
The amount claimed and claim period for each employee
The claim reference number for the records
Calculations in case HMRC need more information about the claim
Usual hours worked, including any calculations that were required, for employees flexibly furloughed
Actual hours worked for employees flexibly furloughed.
It is also advisable to have records such as:
Financial forecasts which support the reasons for making the claim;
Evidence that employees furloughed and in respect of whom claims were made, would have continued in employment if the pandemic had not happened
Evidence that the appropriate amounts have been paid to furloughed workers;
Communications with employees notifying them they were being furloughed and the responses from employees providing their agreement
Written instructions to furloughed employees confirming the need for them to stop working during the period when they are furloughed
Evidence that non-furloughed employees have been made aware that they cannot involve furloughed employees in work
Details of the procedures used in managing the changes in the implementation of the scheme from August
Details of the procedures for bringing back employees from furlough
Fiona adds” “Arguably it would also make sense to have records demonstrating the reduction in workload for those who are flexibly furloughed, to support the rationale for the claims.”