Warning as HMRC targets fraudulent Covid-19 companies
HM Revenue & Customs takes the pursuit of fraudulent requests for support associated with the Covid-19 pandemic seriously – and businesses should be prepared to show they’ve done it right.
That’s the warning from Mark Brown, partner of Aberdeen accounting firm Meston Reid & Co, as programs like the Leave and Self-Employed Income Support (SEISS) program come to an end .
The UK government has already made clear its determination to tackle abuse, investing more than £ 100m in a Taxpayer Protection Task Force to tackle around £ 3.5bn of fraudulent program-related claims support for coronaviruses.
HMRC’s anti-fraud hotline has already received more than 8,000 calls and is reviewing 27,000 “high-risk” cases in which it believes a significant error has been made.
Brown said: “HMRC makes it very clear that it takes this issue very seriously – its primary focus will be on significant cases, and organized crime in particular, but it has the flexibility to explore the circumstances of any business or individual. who asked for help.
“It is of course important to stress that companies that have done things right have nothing to fear, but there is always the possibility that honest mistakes have been made.
Brown said it is essential for companies to carefully document their processes so that they have a record to present as evidence of their decision-making throughout: meeting minutes when each staff member’s leave status is taken into account, for example.
For those who have claimed SEISS, when it is clear that their business has not been affected, it will be necessary to repay the grant.
Brown added, “With good systems and solid information readily available, companies will be in a good position to demonstrate the validity of their approach and avoid cumbersome investigations. “
For organizations that have committed willful leave fraud, penalties range from fines, jail time, compensation and forfeiture orders to disqualification of directors and serious crime prevention orders.
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