A sum of 3,777 businesses have voluntarily repaid over £760m in furlough grants to HMRC which they claim were “not actually needed”, according to UHY Hacker Young.
The firm said it was likely that many of these businesses claimed furlough money in the early stages of the pandemic as a “precaution”. However, many of these businesses later realised they weren’t impacted as badly as they might have anticipated.
UHY suggested that due to HMRC shifting its focus towards businesses who have incorrectly claimed furlough money, this has encouraged more to make voluntary repayments to reduce risk.
In the March budget announcement, the government said it would be allocating over £100m towards a new HMRC taskforce dedicated to investigating fraudulent claims under its various Covid-19 support schemes.
Since the introduction of the furlough scheme in March 2020, £53.8bn has been claimed by employers who in turn have protected over 11 million employees.
Neela Chauhan, partner at UHY, said: “Many businesses are beginning to realise they acted hastily when claiming furlough money and are doing the right thing by handing it back to HMRC.
“It’s expected that HMRC’s Covid fraud taskforce will take a much tougher approach to tackling what it sees as abuse of its schemes. The next stage of its investigations will be much more aggressive.”