Jim Harra the Chief Executive of HMRC attended the Treasury Select Committee today (Wednesday 8 April 2020) to answer question about its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Of particular interest to employers up and down the country was further details provided in relation to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Online portal will allow employers to apply for grants
It is reported that Mr Harra stated that the online portal which will allow employers to apply for grants from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme should be up and running by the 20th April 2020. He explained that the portal has begun testing and a select number of employers have already been invited to test the portal and ensure that it is operational by the 20th April.
Measures in place to tackle fraud
Other headlines from Mr Harra's appearance at the select committee included measures designed to tackle fraud, as he believes fraudsters and organised crime will target the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. In order to mitigate against this they have designed the following security features:
- There will be a requirement for employers to have already been authenticated by HMRC;
- There will be a 4-6 day processing period between an application being made to pay out of the grant, this period will allow HMRC to conduct background checks;
- Checks will be carried out following payouts to verify the claim made was real; and
- There will be a whistleblowers hotline for employees to report if they’ve been asked to work whilst on furloughed leave.
Apply for the scheme correctly
Mr Harra's announcement that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be operational by the 20th April will be welcome news for employers who have furloughed employees already and are looking forward to receiving funds from HMRC to support the payment of wages to staff. In addition, Mr Harra's reported comments on security highlights the importance of applying the scheme correctly as if HMRC suspect it has not been applied correctly and the guidance rules have not been followed, one expects employers may not gain access to the benefits of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
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