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Chartered Accountants fraudulently claiming CJRS

My firm has claimed CJRS for 90% of staff whilst wanting them to work

Didn't find your answer?

I am posting anonymously due to the nature of the question, I hope this is understood.

I work for a firm of Chartered Accountants, small-medium sized. Advised we were being furloughed in March, and this continued for April and May. Was initially told "we cannot ask you to work, however, you can if you want to due to having nothing else to do or if you want to keep our clients happy, we will also top your pay up to 100%". We then received phonecalls weekly from the partners asking what work we had done and what we are expecting to do in the next week. If we didn't work, the work wouldn't have got done for our clients. We were actually busier.

My question is what can we actually do about it? Except resigning (which most people couldn't afford to in this climate), and making a report through HMRC's CJRS fraud reporting service, what else should/could we be doing?

 

EDIT 1 (To preserve anonymity)

Thanks for all of the responses. I have submitted a report to the institute and also to HMRC.

Regarding whether I am 100% certain CJRS has been claimed or not - I am 95% sure. We received a letter in March advising us of furlough but 100% pay. Then we were asked to take a 20% pay cut for May (but still work, unbelievable! Most people did very little work) then for June they paid us 100%. I am as sure as I can be that they claimed furlough without actually seeing the bank statements.

 

EDIT 2:

Once again, thank you all for the responses. We received letters in March advising us we were being put on furlough. Our payslips then showed the furlough payment and the top up amount seperately, for April, May and June. We were told to come back in the office from 1 July, so assumed we are no longer being furloughed, however no letter confirming this has been received.

Replies (55)

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Psycho
By Wilson Philips
30th Jul 2020 13:43

Report. That is your only ‘obligation’

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By jonharris999
30th Jul 2020 13:45

ICAEW.

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boat
By SouthCoastAcc
30th Jul 2020 14:03

Report and hope the firm doesn't go broke.

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By Mr_awol
30th Jul 2020 14:26

Are you sure they claimed furlough grants - i.e. were you told to keep it quiet etc? It seems very likely they have, from what you have said, but it could be they panicked, furloughed you all, then when homeworking wasn't too bad, they actually reversed that decision and decided to 'stay open'.

Assuming you are confident that they are likely to have dishonestly have broken the rules:
1) Look for a new job. If your employers, supposedly a professional firm of accountants, are willing to do this then what else will they do? Will you be learning bad habits from them? Will your name be tainted from having worked for them?
2) Report them to The Institute, especially if you are a member of a professional body, particularly ICAEW.
3) Enter full details at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/r...

I wouldn't resign 'out of principle' without finding a new job - that would be stupid. Whether you contact your own professional body and explain that you're quitting on principle as soon as you find something with a more honest firm, is up to you.

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David Winch
By David Winch
30th Jul 2020 14:24

Sensible answer - talk in confidence to the ICAEW ethics helpline.
Technical answer - if you believe a fraud has been committed, as a consequence of information which has come to you in the course of your work in the 'regulated sector', then you should report it to your firm's MLRO.
The problem of course with the technical answer is that you are likely to suspect the person who is your firm's MLRO, and so you would be reporting him to himself. That may not end well.
So, talk to the ICAEW helpline. They MIGHT say that you have an obligation to report this (personally and directly) to the NCA.
A difficult situation for you, through no fault of your own.
David

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By Duhamel
30th Jul 2020 14:53

Perhaps resigning isn't an option in the current climate but I would definitely look for a new role, if I were you.

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By AWeb72
30th Jul 2020 15:07

B-b-but John Stokdyk said Chartered Firms were exemplary?

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Replying to AWeb72:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
31st Jul 2020 10:26

Clearly they have an unqualified among them, and it is that unqualified that has spoiled the bunch.

Damn you unqualified accountants! Damn you all!

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Replying to Lone_Wolf:
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By JD
31st Jul 2020 10:02

Hold on there Lone Wolf - I am sure that many of us have seen the majority of non chartered hold themselves to the highest possible ethical standards and chartered individuals who do not give a F&*%. Having a certificate does not make anybody ethical.

To the op, cover yourself by making the necessary reports, but be very careful going down the whistleblowing route. If your employers are prepared to run that close to the wind, it will be ''you'' that will get slaughtered. Your employer will have insurance to cover the legal costs, you will only have what will rapidly become an empty pocket.

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Replying to JD:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
31st Jul 2020 10:32

Quote:
Hold on there Lone Wolf - I am sure that many of us have seen the majority of non chartered hold themselves to the highest possible ethical standards and chartered individuals who do not give a F&*%. Having a certificate does not make anybody ethical.

Of course it does. A certificate is everything in this game, and you are nothing without one. A qualified accountant would never engage in unethical behaviour on their own.

They have clearly been poisoned by an unqualified in their ranks. That unqualified has to be removed like a weed to allow the righteous accountancy garden to flourish. Failure to act will see the weed grow and spread.

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Replying to Lone_Wolf:
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By Vallery Lee
31st Jul 2020 13:00

How very unfriendly and unkind. Qualified and unqualified can both be rubbish and in addition what exactly do you mean by "qualified" there are several levels of qualification

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Replying to Vallery Lee:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
31st Jul 2020 13:52

Quote:

How very unfriendly and unkind. Qualified and unqualified can both be rubbish and in addition what exactly do you mean by "qualified" there are several levels of qualification


Unfriendly, unkind... perhaps. But not unqualified which is what matters.

As for qualified - ICAS, ICAEW and CTA. The rest are Mickey Mouse qualifications.

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Replying to Vallery Lee:
By Silver Birch Accts
03rd Aug 2020 10:54

I suspect Lone Wolf is being sarcastic.

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Replying to Lone_Wolf:
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By Vallery Lee
31st Jul 2020 13:00

How very unfriendly and unkind. Qualified and unqualified can both be rubbish and in addition what exactly do you mean by "qualified" there are several levels of qualification

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Replying to Vallery Lee:
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By JD
31st Jul 2020 13:58

Thank you for your kindness Vallery - I have a feeling that Lone Wolf has picked a sunny day to go fishing and I have been hooked - Fair play to you LW, but perhaps the wrong thread to do this on.

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Replying to JD:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
31st Jul 2020 14:03

Don't worry I'll toss you back into the water.

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Replying to AWeb72:
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
30th Jul 2020 17:41

@AWeb72 - For the record, I never said anything of the sort.

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Replying to John Stokdyk:
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By AWeb72
31st Jul 2020 11:21

You said unqualifieds were cowboys. For the record.

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Replying to John Stokdyk:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
03rd Aug 2020 12:40

Quote:

@AWeb72 - For the record, I never said anything of the sort.

For the record you said.
John Stokdyk wrote:
As we have seen on Any Answers in recent weeks, few topics generate as much anger as the activities of unqualified accountants.

and
John Stokdyk wrote:
What can be done to protect consumers from cowboy accountants and to ensure a fair, but quality-monitored playing field for those offering accountancy services?

in a "question" advertising a podcast literally called "The Problem with Unqualified Accountants."

You may not have precisely stated that unqualified accountants are cowboys, but your choice of words still indicate you hold that view. The fact that this is still being brought up nearly a month later is an indication of how much damage you did to the forum with that post.

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Replying to stepurhan:
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
04th Aug 2020 09:19

If you look at the statements I categorically did not say unqualified cowboys are accountants. You do not have mystical insights into the workings of my mind. I was stating with some drama two sides of the argument to illuminate the range of different opinions - and emotions that they generated. Yes, I wanted to speak to those emotions so people would come along and listen to the longer debate on the subject. However some of you put your own ultra-negative spin on my comments and continue to do so.

I can't change your beliefs or mindset at this point, but I think independent minded readers who go back to the original thread will see how it has been blown out of all proportions: https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/time-to-talk-about-unqualifi...

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Replying to John Stokdyk:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
04th Aug 2020 09:43

You literally called the Podcast "The Problem with Unqualified Accountants". Not the problem with uninformed accountants or rogue accountants or incompetent accountants. Specifically Unqualified Accountants. It is hardly spin to say that choosing the title you did indicated you thought unqualified accountants were the issue.

It is spin to claim that the thread has blown out of all proportion. As I pointed out in that thread, many members had the same understanding as me and, quite rightly in my opinion, were very upset by it.

However, in a similar vein to the advice I give to questioners I feel are being foolish in not engaging an accountant, it is your forum. I think by not acknowledging your words were poorly chosen (and your "apology" in that thread most definitely did not do that) you risk driving away the entirely competent non-qualifieds on the forum. This forum has already lost many well-informed members, but if you are happy to lose more that is your choice.

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Replying to John Stokdyk:
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By CS777
04th Aug 2020 10:10

[quote=]

If you look at the statements I categorically did not say unqualified cowboys are accountants.''

How do you qualify as a cowboy?
-----------------------------------
Heading in your other insulting post (but you will never admit it and apologise)

''Time to talk about unqualified accountants
They're a perennial thorn in the side for many practitioner''

Surely you should have used

''Time to talk about cowboy accountants
They're a perennial thorn in the side for many practitioner''

As a supposed man of words, an acting editor in chief, you surely should be structuring your sentences more carefully.

But then that wouldnt get a rise would it.

As Ste says- many have gone over the years. Have you also noticed that many more of the regular responders of the really good, fabulously polite posters are also rarely doing do these days, over the last few weeks? Eg Matrix, Wanderer and their ilk.

Never mind the reduction in posts from other folk who give fabulous answers, albeit might occasionally get a wee bit frustrated. We see less of Lion, DJKL. Where has Fawlty been the last few weeks? To list a very small number (sorry if I missed you out folks) There are several more who are just not helping people out any more because of this thread you have linked and a couple of others! To list a very small few (sorry if I missed you out folks)

So now you are aiding and abeting the cowboy accountants. You only have to look at the quality of lots of the questions (dire), to see that you have single handly encouraged the cowboys in the last few weeks.

Get your stetsons here.

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By CS777
30th Jul 2020 15:51

''My firm has claimed CJRS for 90% of staff whilst wanting them to work''

Do you know this for a fact? Have you actually seen the receipt of funds (and nothing going back the other way).

Do not resign - daft thing to do without another position lined up.

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Replying to CS777:
Flag of the Soviet Union
By thevaliant
31st Jul 2020 09:05

The problem with this answer (Requiring hard evidence of receipt of CJRS) is that in this day and age (in fact in any day and age), seeing sight of bank statements confirming receipt of CJRS would itself require a criminal act.

How many bank statements have you seen which you are not entitled to see?

In my entire twenty year career, I've only ever seen my firms bank statements once. The partner clicked print, I clicked print. We met at the copier as I picked up the bundle of paper with my accounts on it. Top sheet was the bank statement. Cast a half second glance at it before it was taken.

I remember. Once. In twenty years.

So unless you're proposing doing some sort of Watergate break in, I'd say the chances of getting hard evidence is pretty much nil.

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Replying to thevaliant:
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By SBS33
31st Jul 2020 11:08

To report the suspected fraud, you don't need to get hard evidence. That would be up to the investigating authority.

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Replying to thevaliant:
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By CS777
31st Jul 2020 13:07

Agree. I did wonder if he had actually seen the bank statements depending on the exact nature of his role, but it appears not.

It is an awful position to be in. There are probably many like him in other businesses, unfortunately.

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Replying to CS777:
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By towat
31st Jul 2020 10:52

In my firm we had to write to staff when we put them on furlough and again when we took them off furlough, (I believe this is mandatory but I wasn't involved) so if no "off furlough" letter has been received it is likely that they are still claiming CJRS.

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By WhichTyler
30th Jul 2020 16:35

Did they give you a furlough agreement?
If so don't reply to requests to work until they confirm that you are off furlough

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By paul.benny
30th Jul 2020 17:40

Good answers, all.

OP - if you want to add anything or ask further questions, you can edit the original post while retaining your anonymity. Mark your changes EDIT so that we can see and respond as appropriate.

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Replying to paul.benny:
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
30th Jul 2020 17:43

The advice from Paul is helpful, if you respond to a comment in this thread, it will display your actual user name.

While you could pretend not to be the OP, there might be a risk of giving yourself away. I'm sorry that our system operates in this way.

PS - Please DON'T delete your original post. The ID remains secure. If there is anything about the thread or the post that troubles you, please click the link on my name and private message me and I can help with any edits.

Good luck resolving your ethical dilemma.

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RLI
By lionofludesch
30th Jul 2020 17:57

Was initially told "we cannot ask you to work, however, you can if you want to due to having nothing else to do or if you want to keep our clients happy, we will also top your pay up to 100%"

Jaysus.

That's wrong from the outset.

But - as said above, do you know they claimed furlough for the time you (or other folk) worked ?

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By Calculatorboy
30th Jul 2020 20:03

So easy to condemn chartered accountants, dont forget they will bear the repercussions and they have pi to protect clients as last resort

....compare that to the true cowboys who play tennis without the nets

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By Mr_awol
30th Jul 2020 23:29

It seems like such along time ago now - but in the very early days, wasn’t it common belief that you couldn’t ‘require’ staff to work but they could ‘volunteer’ if they liked? Obviously that’s been cleared up since and we all know it isn’t the case.

That’s the only reason I ask if the OP is sure.

Then again, if the OP reports to HMRC (or ICAEW) andthefirm
Actually changed their mind and don’t claim the cash - then the firm have nothing to fear.

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Replying to Mr_awol:
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By Ben McLintock
31st Jul 2020 00:08

It does say after submitting each claim that you must tell the employees that you've made the claim.

Would there be any harm therefore in simply asking the partners? If they say 'none of your business', then the above could be pointed out.

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Replying to Ben McLintock:
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By Mr_awol
31st Jul 2020 14:12

Good point - I hadn't realised that the claim process included that instruction (our payroll department deal with all the processing so I haven't had to actually submit one).

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By bernard michael
31st Jul 2020 09:23

Did you get/give a written agreement to Furlough, which you should have under HMRC regulations ??

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By MC1
31st Jul 2020 10:05

I wonder if you might need to explain a change in your income to your mortgage broker next time around? If so, or if you think there is a remote chance of that, or if you can think of another reason why you might need to know for sure in the future, you might like to clarify exactly the position regarding furlough now with your employer.

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By bernard michael
31st Jul 2020 11:37

The OP states "I am as sure as I can be they claimed furlough payments"
What if any evidence does he have to support this statement except gut feeling ??
If it turns out that have acted properly and only claimed appropriately - if at all -he will be in deep do-dahs
The firm will sue the socks off him

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By [email protected]
31st Jul 2020 11:59

I'm a company director. A firm of Chartered Accountants handles our small payroll. Each employee on furlough receives their normal salary slip, but with furlough pay and top-up pay itemised separately. This is transparent. Surely this should be the case everywhere?

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Replying to [email protected]:
RLI
By lionofludesch
31st Jul 2020 12:07

Quote:

I'm a company director. A firm of Chartered Accountants handles our small payroll. Each employee on furlough receives their normal salary slip, but with furlough pay and top-up pay itemised separately. This is transparent. Surely this should be the case everywhere?

Yep - I do that.

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Replying to [email protected]:
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By CS777
31st Jul 2020 13:05

Doesnt actually prove they claimed anything back from the government though.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
31st Jul 2020 12:04

Horrible position to be in.
There really is only one option, and that is to report to the firm's Institute and HMRC. Be very careful exactly how you phrase your report. At the moment you have zero evidence of actual wrongdoing, only suspicions, and you should coach your report accordingly. HMRC can then decide what action to take in due course (and it might take them months or years).
Then look for another job, which might not be so easy at the moment....

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
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By bernard michael
31st Jul 2020 12:17

Quote:

Horrible position to be in.
There really is only one option, and that is to report to the firm's Institute and HMRC. Be very careful exactly how you phrase your report. At the moment you have zero evidence of actual wrongdoing, only suspicions, and you should coach your report accordingly. HMRC can then decide what action to take in due course (and it might take them months or years).
Then look for another job, which might not be so easy at the moment....

Does the OP's report go

"I've no evidence but I think they might be claiming furlough payments and making the staff work " How much attention is that going to get - not a lot !!

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By Dib
31st Jul 2020 13:16

Following David Winch's comment and the OP's edit to state a report has been sent to the institute and HMRC, does (s)he need to ask the institute's help line whether a report needs to be made direct to the NCA?

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By Yoshik
01st Aug 2020 08:27

There is much sound advice here but I see that again the aloofness of mebers of the ICAEW is present.
I will stand up for many who are unqualified but have years of experience and do an excellent job, indeed I have seen better than members of ICAEW. Those who are e.g. members of AAT are very bright and in a number of cases are on the way to say ACCA. They carry full PI and should not be dismissively written off.
I am aware of a number of CPA's. Is the suggestion that their qualification is of no value?
Although I am qualified over more than 25 years I will not agree to the comments made, particularly by Vallery Lee. The comment is ugly at best and defamatory at worst.
Let's all remember that many years ago many who wanted to be chartered could not as paying for articles was a cost too far. That does not mean they have no intellect, integrity or a skill set that makes them good accountants.

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Replying to Yoshik:
By SteveHa
03rd Aug 2020 06:44

I suspect you are referring to Lone Wolf's comments, in which case, am I the only one who could "hear" the sarcasm?

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Replying to SteveHa:
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By paulwakefield1
03rd Aug 2020 09:50

To give you comfort, you were not the only one. :-)

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Replying to Yoshik:
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By CS777
03rd Aug 2020 07:06

Quote:

There is much sound advice here but I see that again the aloofness of mebers of the ICAEW is present.
I will stand up for many who are unqualified but have years of experience and do an excellent job, indeed I have seen better than members of ICAEW. Those who are e.g. members of AAT are very bright and in a number of cases are on the way to say ACCA. They carry full PI and should not be dismissively written off.
I am aware of a number of CPA's. Is the suggestion that their qualification is of no value?
Although I am qualified over more than 25 years I will not agree to the comments made, particularly by Vallery Lee. The comment is ugly at best and defamatory at worst.
Let's all remember that many years ago many who wanted to be chartered could not as paying for articles was a cost too far. That does not mean they have no intellect, integrity or a skill set that makes them good accountants.

You owe Vellery an apology, you are picking on the wrong person!!

Although it is clear than you and Vallery have not been keeping up with other posts on the forum, otherwise you would understand LW's and Aweb72s earlier comments, which were driven by some lets say odd comments made by sift not so long ago. If I say more than 'odd' I'm sure I will be banned.

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Replying to CS777:
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By Yoshik
03rd Aug 2020 11:10

I most certainly do owe Vallery an apology. I misread the poster and it was indeed Lone Wolf who made such an injudicious comment.

Vallery - my sincere apologies.

The misquote on my part does not alter my opinion of unqualifieds nor the aloofness of certain members of the profession.

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Replying to Yoshik:
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By CS777
03rd Aug 2020 11:52

Quote:

I most certainly do owe Vallery an apology. I misread the poster and it was indeed Lone Wolf who made such an injudicious comment.

Vallery - my sincere apologies.

The misquote on my part does not alter my opinion of unqualifieds nor the aloofness of certain members of the profession.

Well that should be directed at John S of Sift then, not Lone Wolf. (Read the posts - you can find them in the most liked - top 3 or 4)

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