Companies repay nearly £400m in furlough cash to HMRC

Companies repay nearly £400m in furlough cash as HM Revenue & Customs says it expects to investigate 10,000 over abuse of the huge bailout

  • HMRC and Treasury officials gave evidence to MPs about huge Covid bailouts
  • HMRC’s Jim Harra revealed that £382million of furlough has been repaid so far
  • The department expects to investigate 10,000 firms over abuse of the funding 

Companies have paid back nearly £400million in furlough cash to the Government – as HM Revenue & Customs threatens to investigate 10,000 over potential abuses of the massive bailout.

The figures were revealed as MPs grilled top mandarins from the tax office and Treasury over the handling of the coronavirus response.

Companies have been able to claim up to 80 per cent of the salaries of furloughed staff, to a monthly ceiling of £2,500. More than £41billion has been money has been distributed, propping up 9.6million jobs. 

But some firms have voluntarily repaid money after realising they were not facing as bad a hit as expected, or have been prompted to return funds by the government. 

Giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, HMRC permanent secretary Jim Harra gave an update on how much had come back in furlough

The Office for National Statistics revealed earlier this year that public sector debt is now above £2trillion for the first time ever

Giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, HMRC permanent secretary Jim Harra gave an update on how much had come back. 

He said £382million had now been returned, but added that was not a complete figure as more was flowing in.

In September, it emerged that around £215million had been returned by companies.

Some of the money was returned in cash, but other companies just took smaller payouts the next time they claimed. 

HMRC has written to 27,000 high-risk companies over their use of the furlough scheme. 

It expects to investigate around 10,000 of these.

Mr Harra has previously revealed the Government expects between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of furlough money might be lost through fraud and error.

Last week, after a second lockdown was implemented in England, the Government extended the furlough scheme until March. It had been set to end on November 1.

The decision could add another £25-30billion to the government’s bill, and mean millions of people will have had their wages covered by the state for a full year. 

In January, officials will review whether employees should have to contribute to the costs of furlough.

An expected 11 per cent contraction in GDP this year would be the worst for 300 years – eclipsing the downturn sparked by the First World War and Spanish Flu

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