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Coronavirus: Government job retention scheme ‘working well’ despite staggering numbers of applicants, say experts

PUBLISHED: 14:58 23 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:17 23 April 2020

Avoid being distracted when you are applying for funds through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Shaun Davison of Lovewell Blake warns  Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Avoid being distracted when you are applying for funds through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Shaun Davison of Lovewell Blake warns Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

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The application process for a government scheme to keep workers in jobs during the coronavirus lockdown is working well so far – but there are potential pitfalls, financial experts have warned.

Shaun Davison, tax specialist at Lovewell Blake  Picture: ANDY NEWMANShaun Davison, tax specialist at Lovewell Blake Picture: ANDY NEWMAN

The new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been swamped with applications since it opened on Monday (April 20), but it is working well so far, Shaun Davison, a tax expert at East Anglian accountancy firm Lovewell Blake, believes.

“Despite a staggering 140,000 employers logging on to the portal in the first 24 hours, the system appears to be working smoothly,” he said.

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“However, some applicants are encountering problems which are mainly due to them not being fully prepared to make their claim.”

The HMRC online portal was launched just a month after chancellor Rishi Sunak announced he would be allowing employers to furlough staff during lockdown, then claim back 80% of their wages through the scheme.

But companies should ensure that they have the information they need to hand, said Mr Davison.

“Employers are allowed to make only one claim during any claim period, so it’s important to claim for all employees in each period at one time – as you cannot go back and make changes once you have claimed,” he said.

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Payments go directly to employers’ bank accounts six working days after making the claim, so ideally they should claim shortly before, or during, running their payroll, he said.

“The system will time you out if there is a gap of 15 minutes in activity, so make sure you have all of the information you need before going online. To access the portal, you will need your HMRC Gateway login details, as well as your UTR and details of all of the employees for which you are claiming.”

Firms claiming for more than 100 employees should upload a spreadsheet with their details, but those with lower numbers have to input their details manually.

“This means entering their names and National Insurance (NI) numbers; there is lots of room for error when doing this, so ensure you have plenty of time, and avoid being distracted by other tasks while you are doing it.”

A useful calculator tool on the website shows how much firms are claiming, but at the moment this only works for fixed staff and not those on zero hours contracts, he said.

“The portal doesn’t provide an email confirmation, so it’s a good idea to note down the submission number provided at the end of the process, and to take a screenshot of the confirmation page. This will help if there is a subsequent query,” he said.

“It is to HMRC’s credit that it has created a structure which is working so well in such a short period of time. Now it’s down to employers to do their bit to make sure the system runs smoothly.”

HMRC’s step-by-step guide to claiming can be found here

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