Following a spate of tip-offs that the Covid-19 support schemes put in place by The Government may have been subject to excessive claims from a number of workers and employers, moves are now being made to investigate claims, recover overpaid support grants and levy penalty charges where appropriate.
Self-employed individuals, and employers, have 90 days to inform HMRC that they have over-claimed the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) or Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grants and repay any excess before penalties apply.
For the CJRS, any overclaims can be corrected through further applications being made. However, if the final CJRS claim has been made by an employer, HMRC has set up an online payment portal through which over payments can be repaid*. It is believed that excess claims of CJRS will be limited as they are based on contracted salary rates, hours worked and periods on furlough. Excess claims should not be confused with fraudulent claims, where CJRS has been claimed but individuals have continued to work some or all of their normal hours.
However, the SEISS grants may have a higher rate of excess claim due to the nature of the calculations required to make an application. The scheme provided a taxable grant worth up to 80% of average profits for a period of three months, capped at £7,500. HMRC said there had been 2.7m claims worth more than £7.7bn in support.
A second phase of the SEISS opens to applications on 17th August and closes on 17th October and is designed to help businesses that have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic on or after 14 July 2020. To be considered adversely affected HMRC says a business must have temporarily stopped trading, the trading has been scaled back, or the business has incurred additional costs.
A new Finance Bill, being put forward by The Treasury grants a 90-day amnesty period to self-employed workers, after which those who have over claimed would face fines on a sliding scale of between 30% and 100%. Where the taxpayer fails to notify HMRC of the over claimed coronavirus support payment within the 90-day period HMRC will impose a penalty under the failure to notify rules.
*To repay CJRS overpayments visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pay-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-grants-back