HMRC warning: SEISS ‘fraud’ could soar to over £250million – impact on Britons

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SEISS was established by the government and opened in mid-March to help those who do not fall under PAYE employment. It was then extended to provide further support to self-employed people amid challenging financial circumstances. The scheme was issued to individuals in the form of two grants based on a percentage of their average trading profits.

However, early analysis of how SEISS was given out have estimated approximately £250million has either been fraudulently claimed, or incorrectly handed out.

Jim Harra, chief executive of HMRC, today spoke to the Public Accounts Committee concerning the matter. 

He said approximately one to two percent of SEISS claims were obtained fraudulently or paid in error.

Applications for the second SEISS grant opened on August 17.

The government states the closing date for applications is October 19, 2020. 

It will now be the responsibility of HMRC to claw back any funds which were inappropriately claimed. 

A similar issue has been faced with the counterpart furlough scheme. 

Furlough fraud has also been a significant issue in recent months as some people may have taken advantage of the scheme.

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HMRC has received over 8,000 reports of potential furlough fraud within the last few months, as the scheme winds down.

The Revenue has said up to £3.5billion in payments were either claimed fraudulently or paid out in error.

The scheme was designed to pay 80 percent of the wages of Britons up to £2,500 a month.

HMRC’s permanent secretary, Jim Harra, told MPs: “We have made an assumption for the purposes of our planning that the error and fraud rate in this scheme could be between five and 10 percent.

“That will range from deliberate fraud through to error.”

An HMRC spokesperson told about potential SEISS fraud.

They said: “The government’s priority in administering the Self Employed Income Support Scheme was getting money to people who needed it as quickly and safely as possible.

“Customers went from making a claim to having the money in their accounts within six working days, and the first tranche of the scheme saw 2.7million self-employed people claim £7.8billion after their businesses were affected by coronavirus.

“We built controls into the application process, including limiting eligibility to customers whose details HMRC already holds, to stop fraudulent claims, and we’re confident we’ve prevented large amounts of fraud.

“Our post-payment compliance checks to recover money paid out are set to begin with the focus on those who claimed despite having no active business.” 

HMRC has urged those who believe they may have claimed incorrectly to get in touch at the earliest opportunity. 

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