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HMRC opens up 13,000 investigations into claims made under the Government’s Covid support scheme

Tax investigators are looking into nearly 13,000 claims that might have abused the Government’s business support scheme.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is looking for potential fraud and other breaches of non-compliance.

The areas of inquiry include the furlough scheme, self-employment income, and “eat out to help out”.

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A handful of the investigations are “criminal”.

The strength of the inquiry was revealed in a Freedom of Information request.

Law firm BLM was told the HMRC had opened up 12,882 inquiries by the end of March, 2021.

The largest number under scrutiny were 7,384 cases relating to the furlough scheme.

A further 5,020 inquiries centred on self-employment claims and 424 on the “eat out” scheme.

The HMRC hopes to recover money lost to fraud and tax avoidance and evasion.

A spokesperson for HMRC said:

“It is vital we support businesses to recover by ensuring a level playing field so the majority are not undercut by the few who tried to cheat the system.

“We are taking tough action to tackle fraudulent behaviour.

“We have now opened more than 12,000 inquiries into claimants we suspect may have kept more than they were entitled to.

“We have also begun a handful of criminal investigations.”

Iskander Fernandez, partner and specialist white collar crime and investigations lawyer at BLM, said:

“The government could be looking at losses in the billions through fraudulent activity.

“As it takes time for HMRC to build a case, it’s unlikely that we’ll see an immediate wave of arrests and prosecutions.

“However, it’s a case of when, rather than if, given that thousands of interventions are currently underway.”

 

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