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HMRC warns over fraudulent Eat Out to Help Out claims

HMRC has issued a warning to businesses flouting the Eat Out to Help Out scheme that it will take action to recover incorrect and fraudulent claims.

The caution comes after growing concerns that some venues are advertising taking part in the scheme despite not meeting the criteria.

Speaking to Fry Magazine, an HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC will risk assess registrations and claims to protect against fraud and error. Further, businesses are required to retain records to support Eat Out to Help Out claims and provide them if asked. HMRC may also compare claims to reported turnover and income in tax returns. We will take action to recover incorrect and fraudulent claims from businesses.”

The Eat Out to Help Out initiative, which went live yesterday, offers a 50% discount on food or non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in (up to a maximum of £10 discount per diner) at participating restaurants all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 3rd to 31st August 2020. Restaurants can claim back the difference from the government.

As of yesterday, over 72,000 businesses had signed up to the scheme, designed to give a much-needed boost to the struggling hospitality sector following covid-19.

HMRC remained firm that the guidance surrounding the scheme is clear, stating that outlets can only take part if they are selling food for immediate consumption on the premises and if they provide their own dining area or share a dining area with another establishment for eat-in meals.

Establishments that only offer takeaway food or drink and mobile food vans or trailers are exempt. Putting a table and chairs on the pavement outside a takeaway or mobile van will not qualify.

It also reiterated that records need to be kept for each day a restaurant is using the scheme, including the total number of people who have used it, the total value of transactions under the scheme and the total amount of discounts given.

The spokesperson said that HMRC would revoke any application based on dishonest or inaccurate information and encouraged anyone who thinks an establishment is abusing the scheme to report it to HMRC.

For the full guidance click here.

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