HMRC has started investigating around 13,000 companies in the UK over the possibility of fraudulent claims for the various Covid-19 support grants provided by the government.
These investigations include possible fraud, as well as failures to comply with the terms imposed on those applying for the grants, which include the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ project for the hospitality sector, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and the furlough scheme for business owners. Some business owners will have ensured compliance by getting advice from accountants in Goole or wherever they are based.
The number of investigations being pursued was revealed by the BLM law company after it applied for the data under freedom of information. The results of this request show that by the close of March, HMRC had started investigating 12,828 Covid-19 support claims. The majority of these – 7,384 – concerned the furlough scheme. A total of 5,020 of the investigations are into SEISS claims, with the remaining 424 covering Eat Out to Help Out.
According to City AM, an HMRC spokesperson responded to the news by stating that:
“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.”
The spokesperson went on to add that harsh penalties would be applied to those who were found to have committed fraud to prevent further such instances in the future, and that, in some of these cases, this action could include the individuals in question facing criminal charges.