To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many full time equivalent officials were deployed to the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce in the financial year 2021-22; and what the staff complement is for that taskforce as at 1 September 2022.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many prosecutions have resulted from the investigations of the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce as of 1 September 2022; and how many investigations have been concluded and are waiting to be progressed by the courts.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what the overall budget for the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce was in financial year 2021-22 for (a) staffing, (b) operations and (c) legal and court proceedings; and what the budget projections are for financial year 2022-23 for each of those categories.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what the value of loans is that have been recovered by the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce through successful prosecutions in (a) 2021-22 and (b) 2022-23.
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how many suspected fraud cases have been investigated by the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce; how many of those cases (a) have since been dropped or (b) will not result in prosecution; and what the value is of loans unpaid which will not be recovered in relation to the cases which have been dropped.
At the Spring Budget 202,1 the Government announced a £100 million investment to form the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce. This enabled HMRC to significantly extend work to tackle fraud and error in the COVID-19 support schemes that HMRC administered (Self Employment Income Support Scheme, Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Eat Out to Help Out). These payments are grants rather than loans. HMRC does not administer or undertake compliance of other COVID-19 financial support packages, such as Bounce Back Loans.
The £100 million funding covers backfilling the staff used to resource the taskforce.
In 2021-22 the taskforce had £41million allocated to the staffing budget and is forecasting £59 million in staffing for 2022-23.
During 2021-22, the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce consisted of 1,147 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) compliance officers, reassigned from other teams across HMRC. As of 31 July 2022, there are 1,203 FTE in the taskforce.
HMRC designed the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Eat Out to Help Out schemes to prevent fraud, both in the eligibility criteria and the claim process itself. HMRC also put in place a series of checks on claims before they were paid, blocking those that were highly indicative of criminal activity.
The Government and HMRC are taking tough action to tackle fraudulent behaviour. Anyone who keeps grant money despite knowing they were not entitled to it faces having to repay up to double the amount they received, plus interest, and potentially face criminal prosecution.
The Taxpayer Protection Taskforce undertakes one-to-one investigations where there is a suspected overpayment of an HMRC administered COVID-19 grant. These overpayments may be due to error or fraud, therefore the total number of investigations opened and concluded does not distinguish between error and fraud.
As of 31 July 2022, the total number of investigations opened since the start of the schemes is over 45,000, of which c.31,000 have been concluded. The taskforce opened over 32,000 one to one investigations in addition to the c.13,000 one to one investigations opened prior to the taskforce being formed. These investigations are carried out using HMRC’s civil powers and do not involve prosecution. By 31 March 2022, HMRC have recovered around £762 million of overclaimed grants. This is in addition to £425 million prevented from being paid out incorrectly and £970 million returned by claimants because they did not need the grant or they identified they had overclaimed without HMRC taking action.
In addition, HMRC carries out criminal investigations in the most serious cases of fraud. As of 31 July 2022, there has been 1 successful prosecution for fraud on the HMRC administered COVID-19 support schemes. HMRC also has 30 active criminal investigations that involve suspected COVID-19 scheme fraud and the final decision on whether to prosecute in these cases will be made by independent prosecution partners.