The Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme – key points from Parliament TV

Our Tax Partner, Alastair Wilson, shares the key points on the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme following the discussion on Parliament TV…

Thankfully I don’t normally have to watch Parliament TV.  But for once, it was very good viewing in terms of adding information in relation to what is coming down the track on the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme.

Jim Harra, the head of HMRC, was presenting to a Treasury Committee via Zoom on 8th April and the recording was available rapidly afterwards. 

Key points

Some of the key points in the discussion, which add clarity to the information provided by HMRC previously, were as follows:

  • The CJRS claims portal opens on 20th April and is currently in beta testing with a small number of companies.
  • They expect 450,000 companies an hour to be able to use it, it will be open 24/7 and using it in quieter times may prove more productive.
  • It will be “self-service” – businesses need to get themselves in a position to use it and whilst there will be helplines, HMRC may struggle with call volumes.
  • The first payment run will be made before 30th April.
  • More detailed guidance will be issued by HMRC in next 7 days about the practicalities of the claims process.
  • Payments will be made 4-6 days after the claim is submitted – the delay is used by HMRC for fraud checking.
  • Claims will be able to be made up to 14 days before a payroll run in future.
  • A company with weekly payroll runs as well as monthly payroll runs, for example, will be able to make claims matching the frequency of their payroll runs.
  • A claim has to be made per PAYE scheme (e.g. multiple claims if a company has multiple payrolls).
  • The requirement to use PAYE Online is part of the anti-fraud steps so is a “requirement”.
  • Payroll Bureaus, where not operating clients on PAYE Online, won’t be able to process the claims for their clients, unless the client registers for PAYE Online and adds them as an Agent on that (this appears to be an anti-fraud measure).
  • Allowing continued training by employers of staff who are on furlough is to be encouraged.
  • Whistleblowing of fraudulent claims by staff who believe that their employer is making fraudulent claims will be encouraged.
  • After the event, enquiries will be raised by HMRC on high risk claims and HMRC will use historic RTI information to carry out risk assessments.
  • The 28th February cut off for new hires is an anti-fraud measure. HMRC are aware that it cuts out a large number of people who have moved jobs but the rule is there as an anti-fraud measure. The Committee accepted they have to raise the issue with the Ministers in the Treasury on that point (and changing that aspect would not be HMRC’s decision to make).
  • Mr Harra also confirmed that once the various tax deferral measures, and Time to Pay, had expired, HMRC would revert to their normal mechanisms on debt collection. One of their key objectives of HMRC in normal times was stated to be “collect all taxes due”. The inference here was relatively clear – that whilst HMRC would help businesses now, when the measures are lifted and payment dates go back to their normal dates (including the deadlines for deferred taxes), then HMRC will expect businesses to pay on time. So businesses need to work on the basis that HMRC may not be so patient with debts later in the year.   

If you are a tax adviser, and you have two hours to spare (it is actually quite interesting if you’re a tax adviser), you can watch the discussion on Parliament TV.

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