It has now come to light that the reported cases of furlough fraud have risen dramatically over recent weeks. By the end of June 2020 HMRC had received approximately 4,400 reports of fraud. As of 7th August 2020 this had increased by over 75% to 7,791 cases.
Official figures released show that over 9.6 million jobs have been furloughed with 1.2 million employers using the Scheme. The total value of claims made under the Scheme has reached 33.8 billion pounds.
These statistics follow the arrest of a 57 year old man from Solihull on suspicion of defrauding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme out of £495,000 (the first arrest apparently of its kind), a spokesman from HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service warned “the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is part of the collective national effort to protect jobs. The vast majority of employers will have used the CJRS responsibly but we will not hesitate to act on reports of abuse of the Scheme”.
As a consequence of the dramatic rise of reported cases of furlough fraud, HMRC have stated “we would ask anyone concerned their employer might be abusing the Scheme to please contact us. It could be that you are not being paid what you are entitled to. They might be asking you to work while you are on furlough or they may have claimed for times when you were working”.
However it is being suggested that the vast bulk of the fraudulent claims have been made inadvertently or because the employer did not fully understand the rules. Many employers have found it difficult to interpret the rules and their ongoing changes while attempting to ensure the survival of their business. Therefore employers are being strongly advised to undertake detailed audits of their furlough claims and rectify any errors made before HMRC conduct their own investigation. This may well head off any penalties being imposed by HMRC.
If you require guidance regarding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or indeed have any other queries in relation to employment or HR Law please contact Jonathan Moreland by e- mail on firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on telephone number 0191 3755063, or Sharney Randhawa by e-mail on email@example.com or telephone number 0191 386513.