Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Fraud

Treasury written question – answered on 4th December 2020.

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Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will launch an investigation into the estimated £3.5 billion fraudulent claims to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme forms part of a collective national effort to protect people’s jobs. Fraudulent claims put at risk the provision of public services and the protection of livelihoods. This could include employers claiming on an employee’s behalf and not then paying them what they are entitled to, asking employees to do work while on furlough, or making a backdated claim that includes times when workers were working.

Compliance investigations are now under way. HMRC estimated that CJRS error and fraud could be between 5-10%. The evidence needed to be sure of the actual levels will not be available until HMRC have conducted a sufficient number of compliance investigations. These investigations could carry on for the next two years, so a full and robust error and fraud estimate will not be available until 2022.

Employees can play a vital role by reporting fraudulent claims to HMRC, via their online fraud reporting tool: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/customs-excise-and-vat-fraud-reporting. HMRC are checking claims made through this scheme. Payments may be withheld or need to be repaid in full to HMRC if the claim is based on dishonest or inaccurate information or found to be fraudulent.

HMRC have made clear that they will not hesitate to act on reports of abuse and the first arrest made in relation to CJRS fraud was on 8 July.

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