Almost 1,900 reports of furlough fraud to HMRC

HMRC said 8.7m employees have now been placed on furlough since the scheme began
SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

The government has received almost 1,900 reports of fraudulent use of its furlough scheme, according to new figures from HMRC.

As of 29 May, HMRC had received 1,868 reports to its digital reporting service. This is more than double the number of reports it received as of 12 May, at 795.

Whistleblowing organisations have also reported thousands of calls from employees claiming they have been asked to work while on furlough, which is against the rules.

The department will now assess the reports and decide on next steps.

HMRC has also just published draft details of changes to the Finance Bill 2020 that will give it powers to hold directors liable for tax charges if they deliberately flouted the rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The draft tax information and impact note said HMRC would have “powers to make a company officer jointly and severally liable for the Income Tax charge raised in relation to any CJRS payment to which the company was not entitled or any CJRS payment which was never intended to be used to pay furloughed employee costs in certain circumstances”.

“These powers apply where HMRC can meet certain tests showing there is a serious risk that the company will be unable pay the Income Tax assessment,” it added.

Last week chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the furlough scheme would begin to wind down over the summer months, with employers beginning to pay employers’ national insurance and pension contributions from 1 August.

The number of employees to be placed on furlough since the scheme began is now 8.7 million, across 1.1 million employers, according to Treasury figures issued yesterday.

A HMRC spokesperson said that fraudulent claims for furlough limit the government’s “ability to support people and deprive public services of essential funding”.

“We’d ask anyone concerned their employer might be abusing the scheme to please contact us. It could be that you’re not being paid what you’re entitled to, they might be asking you to work while you’re on furlough, or they may have claimed for times when you were working.”

“These reports are just one way that HMRC identifies fraud. Claims are checked and payments may be withheld or need to be repaid if the claim is based on dishonest or inaccurate information. We won’t hesitate to take criminal action against the most serious cases.”

Claims to the reporting service can be made anonymously online – HMRC has temporarily had to stop taking reports over the phone.

The spokesperson added: “We’re not trying to catch people out – if it turns out to be a genuine mistake then we’ll help put it right, and if it’s more serious then we’ll step in.”

HMRC does not break down the figures into types of organisation or any further identifying data.

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14 Responses to Almost 1,900 reports of furlough fraud to HMRC

  1. Avatar
    Zohaib Ibrahim 3 Jun 2020 at 12:12 pm #

    The key word “received”, but yet to do anything about it!

    • Avatar
      Lynne 5 Jun 2020 at 1:56 am #

      The staff are swamped at the moment, and currently in the midst of a massive redundancy programme themselves. Believe me, the will of there to cracking down on the fraud

      • Avatar
        Anonymous 5 Jun 2020 at 12:29 pm #

        @Lynne Zohaib is precise. HMRC won’t do investigations until after the furlough scheme is concluded & by then, the employers will remove all shreds of evidence of the fraud that they have committed. These employers are hardly stupid & they are fully aware of how to play the system. My company director tampered with our time sheets in April, and he’s probably doing the same for May, to make it look like we’ve done no work that results in the business making a profit. I’m the only one that has called him out, the rest of the employees won’t say anything even if I try to convince them as they have no backbone. I was appalled when I saw my payslip last Friday to notice that I am “furloughed.”

  2. Avatar
    Zohaib Ibrahim 3 Jun 2020 at 12:25 pm #

    Second paragraph from the bottom:

    ‘The spokesperson added: “We’re not trying to catch people out – if it turns out to be a genuine mistake then we’ll help put it right, and if it’s more serious then we’ll step in.”’

    Well you should be catching them out!! They know fully well what they are doing is illegal, no firm “furloughing” their employees but getting them to work is innocent!

  3. Avatar
    D Palmer 3 Jun 2020 at 3:18 pm #

    Or furloughing staff with the reason that it’s quiet when in fact it’s been really busy and the people still working there are run off their feet, hitting and far exceeding sales targets. So it’s actually cost the company I work for absolutely nothing the past 2 months because I’ve still got to pay them back the 20% that the government didn’t cover. They lied about the lack of work and now I’m being treated like shit by my co-workers that weren’t furloughed because they couldn’t keep up with the amount of work.

  4. Avatar
    Amanda 11 Jun 2020 at 11:17 am #

    I agree with the comments, as the company I work for we are being emotionally blackmailed being told if we do not work the business will no longer be viable after Lock Down and we will have no jobs and my home is part of my income! I have no choice but to work whilst I am being Furloughed. Not given a option!

  5. Avatar
    Andy 19 Jun 2020 at 11:46 pm #

    The Seiss grant is being claimed by self employed that have not been out of work, not one day affected, not adversely affected, and they will also be claiming the second grant, these so called self employed work for one firm, driving that firms van, don’t even supply materials, or tools to work, they are paid every week into their bank account as well, it’s absolute fraud.
    The guide lines for eligibility are quite clear.

  6. Avatar
    Confused&overworksd 21 Jun 2020 at 10:19 am #

    I am currently in a very difficult position; I have been furloughed since March, with no top up from my employer, despite being expected to continue working 9-5 in the early stages of lockdown, a few of us spoke up and expressed that, yes we want to secure our jobs on our return, being a small business but we also need to find a balance and being expected to submit a daily task sheet was not on. We are all still working albeit not our full contracted hours but the expectation to be available at the drop of a hat still stands despite many conversations. A former collègue has now been made redundant due to his immediate reaction being that he was unable to continue working whilst furloughed (legally what we should all be doing) and it was thought of to be hugely disloyal for him to take those actions. I am worried that if I speak up, I risk facing redundancy and Ill feeling from my peers. I don’t want to report to HMRC through risk of then losing out on my furlough money and being out of a job – how do I approach the situation?

    • Avatar
      Anonymous 25 Jun 2020 at 6:30 pm #

      Reporting to HMRC won’t work anyway. My company director has extended our furlough but we’re still being asked to carry out tasks. Even when I filed the online report HMRC didn’t bat an eyelid otherwise the furlough wouldn’t have been extended.

  7. Avatar
    Andy 2 Jul 2020 at 10:50 am #

    The scheme is open to fraud. My employer reported that i was paid for my wages, which wasn’t true. This prompted HMRC stopping my universal credit payments.

    When i contacted my employer about the issue, they couldn’t Co-operate. I’ve reported it to HMRC but in the mean time I’m starving, & not sure how long it will take to resolve the dispute.

  8. Avatar
    Marcus 2 Jul 2020 at 9:49 pm #

    I have been forced to work since the 3rd week of lockdown, one or 2 days a weel. Employer claims to have a loophole where i am employed as an agency worker, doing work on the company I work for’s behalf. From my understaiding, you can take a second job while furloughed but it has to be outside of the contracted hours of the job which you are being furloughed from ? I feel i need to report it as have been taken advantage of but also, if it is investigated it will mean i am out of a job.

  9. Avatar
    Vicky McPartland 17 Jul 2020 at 4:01 pm #

    This is appalling! I am the owner of a Barber shop,I furloughed my staff as we were quite rightly not able to work.I have since found out,one of my staff has rung loads of clients and done their hair at home! I’m so angry! I wish I’d laid her off now instead of furloughing her.

    • Avatar
      Jonathan Davies 23 Jul 2020 at 3:21 pm #

      If her contract with you expressly forbids contacting your clients privately and taking business away from your shop then you can dismiss her for gross misconduct. You can also probably discipline her for risking her health, her family’s health and the health of those she’s been doing home visits for as she could have spreading the virus around. It could risk your reputation which can be a disciplinary matter.

  10. Avatar
    Dora 23 Jul 2020 at 4:26 pm #

    lots of people claiming money they shouldn’t. Most of these are the same people who don’t want to pay a penny in tax. They will just wind their business up and start again. This is all too common and should be investigated by HMRC. The law needs to change regarding the opening and closing of business to avoid the payments of Corporation tax etc

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