Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Fraud

Treasury written question – answered on 22nd September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Kennedy of Cradley Baroness Kennedy of Cradley Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the level of fraud that has taken place in relation to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme; and what action they are taking in response.

Photo of Lord Agnew of Oulton Lord Agnew of Oulton Minister of State (HM Treasury), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Using the very limited useful evidence available at the time from labour market programmes and HMRC’s knowledge of the characteristics of organised fraud, HMRC’s early view of the level of error and fraud on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is that it could range from five to ten per cent. This analysis has been used to help HMRC to design the schemes and calibrate their compliance work.

Following the granting of Royal Assent for the Finance Act on 22 July, HMRC now have the legal powers to carry out investigations into suspected CJRS fraud. Before then, HMRC carried out more than 5,000 targeted calls to high-risk cases, to reduce the chance of further error and make clear that HMRC would be investigating excessive claims.

The Finance Act gives employers a 90-day window to correct claims. HMRC are writing to every employer where they have concerns from the data HMRC hold that they may have overclaimed. By the end of November, HMRC will have written to about 27,000 people prompting them to use the opportunity to self-correct.

Starting this month, HMRC will also conduct up to 10,000 one-to-one interventions. This will include cases where HMRC have received information through their fraud hotlines. HMRC’s priorities are to support those correcting a genuine error, while taking action against those who have deliberately sought to abuse the scheme.

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