Accountant warns businesses to prepare for Covid support audits



Cumbrian businesses are being warned to prepare for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) inspections looking into the legitimacy of support grants, loans and furlough claimed during the coronavirus pandemic.


Chartered accountants and business advisers robinson+co say businesses need to make sure they are not caught out by retrospective audits conducted by HMRC. The government has spent billions on initiatives such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, as well as the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and support grants and loans.


Peter Ellwood, managing partner at robinson+co - which has offices in Workington, Whitehaven, and Gosforth - says he believes some businesses are in for a shock.


“Undoubtedly some businesses will have been claiming for support that they weren’t entitled to,” he says.


“In some cases, this will be intentional, but in others it will purely be through honest mistakes made at a time when they were under extreme pressure.”


Last year Chancellor Rishi Sunak gave HMRC new powers to investigate businesses believed to have made false claims for furlough or grant payments. In the case of furlough, HMRC are able to reclaim 100 per cent of any funds incorrectly or fraudulently claimed.


Examples of abuse of the furlough scheme include backdating claims, asking furloughed staff to continue work, claiming for sick or ex-employees, and failing to pass the full amount onto workers.


“Throughout the pandemic we’ve been working with our clients to ensure they access all the help they can in the correct way to ensure they avoid any penalties or repayments. However, we’re also on hand to help any businesses that are being investigated by HMRC,” says Peter.


Robinson+co offers comprehensive insurance to clients covering all the associated costs of dealing with such investigations on their behalf. The company, who celebrated 90 years in business last year, has around 2000 clients across Cumbria.


“We think in time there could be a lot of queries and we can help identify and provide the information to show the assistance was claimed correctly,” says Peter.


“We can work with clients to show all the workings and evidence, but it does require time, which it is up to them to pay for and that’s where the insurance policy comes in. I would urge any business that has any questions to seek advice as soon as possible because, even if you’ve done nothing wrong, engaging professional help could still save you considerable time and money.”