Rishi Sunak urges businesses to use furlough correctly
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And one legal expert warned swindlers they can expect a knock at the door as the Government seeks to claw back as much cash as possible. The figures, published by HMRC on Thursday, further reveal criminal gangs syphoned off almost £350million with a wide range of scams which targeted the furlough scheme, Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and even Eat Out to Help Out.
In total, the Government recorded a 4.4 percent decline in tax revenues over the latest financial year as a result of the pandemic.
In total, just over £4.967billion has been lost to fraudsters, £4.4billion of which was via Rishi Sunak’s vaunted furlough scheme, also known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Another £492.5million was stolen via the Self-Employment scheme, and a further £58.5million via Eat Out To Help Out.
The organised crime element was £207million, £137.9million and £5.09million respectively.
Commenting, Steven Porter, Partner at multinational law firm Pinsent Masons, said: “It is now clear that HMRC’s Covid support schemes presented an opportunity for many fraudsters.
“While clearly necessary to support the economy during the pandemic and a vital lifeline for many, they have also proven too easy for criminals to exploit.”
He added: “HMRC will now be hunting down those who made fraudulent claims, particularly through the Fraud Investigation Service.
“There will be a wave of civil and criminal penalties, including prison sentences.”
An HMT Spokesman said: “We introduced our unprecedented Covid support schemes at speed to protect jobs and livelihoods – helping millions of people across the UK, including nearly 12 million on the furlough scheme alone.
“As a result of our action the economy is growing, more employees are on payrolls than ever before and unemployment has fallen for eight months in a row.”
They added: “We’ve been clear fraud is unacceptable and are taking action against those abusing the system – with 150,000 ineligible claims blocked, £500million recovered last year and the HRMC Taxpayer Protection Taskforce is expected to recover an additional £1billion of taxpayers money.”
Some employers are likely to have made mistakes and those who have are being invited to come forward to correct their claims.
(More to follow)
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