Data published by insurer PfP has revealed that HMRC received 91,000 calls to report instances of fraud in the first nine months of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
PfP stated that many calls were to report abuse of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, and others were to log allegations of furlough fraud.
The insurer predicts that more intensive investigations will be carried out and tougher penalties may be handed out by HMRC in the coming months.
‘With so many fraud allegations being made to HMRC during the COVID-19 crisis, there is no doubt that many of them will end up being false,’ said Kevin Igoe, Managing Director at PfP.
‘Months of lockdown restrictions have already put many businesses under huge pressure. HMRC investigations can be costly, time-consuming and can cause enormous stress for the owner-managers and directors involved.’
A spokesperson for HMRC said: ‘Since the start of the pandemic, HMRC has worked consistently to support businesses during what we know has been a uniquely challenging time for them, while continuing to tackle tax fraud and avoidance to maintain a level playing field. The suggestion that we are going to arbitrarily step-up investigations and pile unnecessary pressure on businesses as they seek to recover from the impact of coronavirus is completely false.’