HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have issued guidance to the self-employed that if they have been ‘overpaid’, or claimed a grant in error, or were not eligible for the grant in the first place, they should pay the money back immediately.
They have not mentioned fraud but clearly there is a suggestion that some people who received it may not have been eligible and did not inform HMRC when they should have done.
HMRC are making it very clear that any monies that have been received in error should be paid back immediately otherwise recipients could be fined and could also end up paying interest charges if those fines are not paid. Clearly, if anyone is in doubt or cannot pay the money back, they should talk to HMRC straightaway.
HMRC have made it clear they are receiving a large number of calls in relation to the scheme, although it does not specify whether those calls are anonymous tip-offs or people who fear they have claimed incorrectly ringing for advice, or a mixture of the two. It is likely that those calls are one of the principal factors prompting the publication of the guidance today.
Whilst the SEISS grant process was very clear and based on self-assessment tax return data, which makes it difficult to see how there have been errors, the guidance is a strong inducement for checks to be made now to ensure the accuracy of claims, since it specifically states that taxpayers who do not tell HMRC of an error may be subject to a penalty. However, the fact that HMRC are receiving so many calls does raise the question of whether there are people who are concerned about having been underpaid as well as those who are concerned about having overclaimed.
The guidance published by HMRC also provides taxpayers with the ability to provide HMRC with details online via the Government Gateway, so reporting an error is remarkably simple.