12,000 probes launched by HMRC into Covid scheme fraud
HMRC revealed that as of 28 March 2021, five individuals had been arrested in relation to CJRS, and three in relation to EOHO
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has carried out over 12,000 interventions relating to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and Eat Out to Help Out Scheme (EOHO), according to research by law firm BLM.
HMRC provided information on the number of formal compliance interventions relating to error and fraudulent risks for each of the schemes, following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
Compliance interventions are an investigation carried out by the HMRC, with an interest to protect or recover funds lost to the UK through fraud, tax avoidance, evasion and non-compliance. The CJRS had the highest number (7,384), SEISS followed closely (5,020) whilst EOHO (424) had the fewest.
In addition, HMRC revealed that as of 28 March 2021, five individuals had been arrested in relation to CJRS, and three in relation to EOHO. The HMRC was unable to confirm the current number of prosecutions relating to the schemes.
In June, HMRC reported that almost £18bn has so far been paid out under CJRS and £24.5bn has been paid out under SEISS. Under EOHO, £849m was claimed to cover 160 million meals across the 28 days it was active. It totals over £43bn across these three schemes alone.
The firm said as investigations into potential misuse of these schemes unfold, it is expected the number of interventions will continue to rise, as further errors and fraudulent behaviours are uncovered.
In its response to the FOI request, HMRC clarified that its data on interventions represented cases where the primary offence related to a coronavirus scheme, but it will likely have other cases outside of these schemes where coronavirus matters, whether fraud or other infringements form a minor aspect of the case.
This means the quantity of errors and fraudulent behaviour requiring intervention by HMRC “may already be much higher” than the figures suggest.
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