Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme investigations have risen by more than three percent according to an FOI. 

The law firm BLM investigated the potential misuse of coronavirus fiscal support schemes and found there have been 15,000 investigations since the start of the pandemic.

HMRC believes these cases may have accessed the financial schemes it offered fraudulently. The numbers include Eat Out to Help Out (EOHO) and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

There have also been two more arrests relating to CJRS and EOHO since 1st April 2021, bringing the total to five for each scheme. A first arrest is yet to be made in relation to the SEISS scheme.

In September, HMRC confirmed that £1.3 billion has been repaid under CJRS since July 2020, with 300 million pounds paid back over the past three months.

This is as the number of people on furlough declined to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic. HMRC also confirmed it has redeployed 360 caseworkers to investigate COVID-19 support scheme compliance cases since August 2020, at an estimated cost to the HMRC of £16m. The body confirmed that the Taxpayer Protection Taskforce,

HMRC confirmed the government’s commitment of one hundred million pounds to hire 1,265 HMRC staff to investigate COVID-19 fraudsters will be in place for 2021/22 through to 2022/23.

The research from BLM showed:

interventions and arrests up to 30th June 2021

Scheme 

Compliance Interventions 

Arrests 

CJRS

7,632

5

SEISS

6,351

0

EOHO

584

5

interventions 1st April 2021 – 30th June 2021

Scheme 

Compliance Interventions 

Arrests 

CJRS

182

2

SEISS

1,367

0

EOHO

159

2

 

Julian Cox is a partner and Head of Employment, London, at BLM. He said: “Given the short amount of time these extensive support schemes were assembled and launched in, and the complicated processes and criteria required to access them, some individuals and businesses will have made honest mistakes in their applications. However, there’s no doubt that others will have knowingly taken advantage.”

Mr Cox warned that the government could lose “millions – if not billions” on the fraudulent activity and the investigations into them.

According to Mr Cox, the government would need to work quickly to decide whether businesses and individuals had made genuine mistakes or if they had knowingly committed fraud.  

He said: “Given the increased investigative activity, it’s clear that self-employed, small business owners and larger organisations alike need to ensure that if they’ve accessed these schemes, they have done so properly. Anyone caught in the midst of an intervention will need to seek thorough advice.”