HMRC to list furlough claimants in anti-fraud move
Employers face a dilemma of whether to furlough employees or risk adverse publicity as new measures to name recipients come into force.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak ordered HMRC to publish information about employers who submit claims under the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) over December 2020 and January 2021.
The HMRC guidance on CJRS data to be made public includes the name of the employer and company reference, plus the amount of the CJRS claim. Tax officials will post the information within three months of the claim on the gov.uk website. HMRC can withhold publication if the department thinks it would expose any individual to serious risk of violence or intimidation.
The published details will only relate to claims made relating to periods later than 1 December 2020.
There are a lot of people on tenterhooks as to what this will look like in February, as that is when the publication will happen in respect to claims from December on.
It is said to be in order to make businesses focus on whether their operations have been impacted by Covid-19 or, for example, do they normally close down over the festive season and have made a claim just to cover their holiday pay bill, which is not in the spirit of the scheme?”
An employer who only made claims from March to September 2020 and does not intend to request help again will not have their details published. However, employers who started to claim in March 2020 and intend to continue until March 2021 will have their details published for grants covering December 2020 to March 2021.
Negative publicity risks
Employers may prefer not to submit claims under the extended CJRS, even where they are technically eligible to do so, to avoid this publicity, especially where the employer’s business is profitable.
However, the risk of negative publicity may be reduced where employers are listed as having submitted relatively low value claims.
Retailers that remained open during lockdowns have been under pressure to return government coronavirus handouts at a time when their rivals, along with hospitality businesses, have been forced to close.
Several major retailers have returned business rates relief in recent weeks, including B&Q owner Kingfisher, which handed £130m back to the Treasury. Other big names include supermarkets Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda, along with Aldi, Lidl, B&M and Pets at Home, taking the total collected to more than £2bn.