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HMRC has launched nearly 13,000 investigations into alleged abuse of the government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) financial support schemes. The investigations are triggered when HMRC suspects error and fraudulent risks.
A freedom of information request revealed that, up to the end of March 2021, HMRC opened 12,828 investigations into alleged cases of fraud. 7,384 of these investigations related to abuse of the COVID-19 support schemes. These interventions have so far led to five arrests.
5,020 investigations were launched into the alleged misuse of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), with no arrests as of 28 March.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme had the fewest with 424 investigations and three arrests.
The number of compliance investigations have risen substantially and are likely to continue to rise as losses through fraudulent activity are estimated to be billions of pounds.
Commenting on the matter, a spokesperson for HMRC said: ‘It is vital we support businesses to recover by ensuring a level playing field, so the majority are not undercut by the few who tried to cheat the system.
‘We are taking tough action to tackle fraudulent behaviour. We have now opened more than 12,000 inquiries into claimants we suspect may have kept more than they were entitled to. We have also begun a handful of criminal investigations.’
Brearley & Co offer a Fee Protection Service for our clients which includes cover for Furlough investigation in the event of any HMRC enquiries relating to claims made via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Contact us for details
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