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Were BDO right to hand back the furlough grant?

The Moral Debate

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As I have said on here before we deal in matters of tax law not morals but it seems that BDO have caved into public feeling and given back the furlough money.

I do not for one moment imagine they did that because they felt it was the right thing to do, it must have been a business decision - does their business model rely that much on public opinion?

I am also intrigued to read that their original plan was to see how the figures looked to 30 June 2021 before making a decision, presumably by then the public would have forgotten all about it.

 

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By carnmores
13th Dec 2020 14:42

its about rich people / firms being greedy, thats the (im)morality of it.

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By Paul Crowley
13th Dec 2020 14:48

Did they really pay it back or just announce it?

Lots of MPs back tracked on their U turns about two properties after the media frenzy was over.
I will only believe it if HMRC were freed up to confirm, both now and in a years time

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Routemaster image
By tom123
13th Dec 2020 21:31

First they came for the big people...

Many firms will have taken furlough cash at the start of the pandemic, after all, it was on offer, and who knew how things would turn out.

If we ignore hospitality etc, who have been forced to stay shut, there will be others who, in the round, and with hindsight, could have managed without.

Not for a moment saying BDO should necessarily have taken the money, but if the legislators wanted some post fact check they could have written that in.

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Replying to tom123:
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By Paul Crowley
13th Dec 2020 21:42

Probably more penalties and payback on furlough than any other tax enquiry matter for the next three years is my expectation

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
14th Dec 2020 06:24

BBL a close second. Especially in 3 months when there’s a wave of liquidations.

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Replying to atleastisoundknowledgable...:
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By nrw
14th Dec 2020 09:10

Will anyone (banks, gov) really bother with the futility of investigating BBL issued to companies which are now insolvent?

The eligibility criteria for BBLs were so broad, loose and dumb that it was pretty hard to fall foul of them. In particular the requirement that a business "has been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic", surely the word 'negatively' should at least have been inserted? Every business was impacted in some way (including Zoom).

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Replying to nrw:
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By gillybean04
20th Dec 2020 02:50

Would that have stopped them though? I'm not convinced. SEISS stated adversely affected. Yet people read that as just affected.

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Replying to nrw:
ALISK
By atleastisoundknowledgable...
20th Dec 2020 08:07

nrw wrote:

Will anyone (banks, gov) really bother with the futility of investigating BBL issued to companies which are now insolvent?

I was thinking about them going after the directors who had claimed multiple BBLs from different banks, or those that hadn’t been affected. Anything that went against the handful of declarations that we agreed to when signing on the dotted. I’ve had a few clients tell me some variation of the tale of ‘my mate Dave down the pub’ who got X BBLs from X different banks for his 1 company, drew them all out to buy Y personally with the intention to shut the company in Spring.

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Replying to tom123:
blue sheep
By NH
14th Dec 2020 09:05

tom123 wrote:

Not for a moment saying BDO should necessarily have taken the money,

Why not though? They fully complied with the law, obtained a grant to support the business and prevent potential redundancies, acting in the best interests of the firm and the employees, there is no suggestion at all that they did not have good reasons at the time for taking the grant

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Replying to NH:
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By carnmores
14th Dec 2020 09:29

Partners earning more than 400k are not in need of support and let's be honest about it that is where the money is eventually going

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Replying to carnmores:
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By the_drookit_dug
14th Dec 2020 09:56

No it's not. It's gone to pay staff, who could not provide services to their employer whilst furloughed.

It's not for us to cast moral judgement on the level of profits they make. All they need to do is demonstrate that their operations have been severely affected by the Covid pandemic in order to access the scheme.

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Replying to the_drookit_dug:
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By carnmores
14th Dec 2020 10:43

100% disagree

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Replying to carnmores:
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By the_drookit_dug
14th Dec 2020 10:47

If it's not been used to pay staff - or if the staff have been made to work - then it's been obtained fraudulently. Is that what you think happened?

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Replying to carnmores:
blue sheep
By NH
14th Dec 2020 10:55

What exactly do you disagree with - do you have some insight into the accounting procedures at BDO? Maybe you don't understand how the furlough grant works?
The grants were paid in order to reimburse the employer for wages they had paid to staff that were unable to work due to Covid, what is there to disagree with there?

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Replying to NH:
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By carnmores
14th Dec 2020 12:51

I understand perfectly how it works

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Replying to carnmores:
By Duggimon
14th Dec 2020 12:11

What do you disagree with? That the grant money that's been claimed was paid to staff?

Do you have some insight or are you just flinging baseless accusations around because you don't like how rich the partners are?

You can argue all you like that they ought not to have claimed any other government support, and I expect I might even agree with that, but CJRS grants are all paid to the staff for whom they are claimed, they're not a benefit to the business or business owners.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By carnmores
14th Dec 2020 13:04

Ouch! via remote desktop :-)

I do not doubt that the money went to staff if it hadn't it would have been the end of the firm.

Baseless allegations possibly depending on your point of view but my view is that claiming the grant was a ploy to increase their profits later in the cycle, I am surprised that they made their original decision as there is still plenty of work out there.

My view is that furloughed staff will now be under unfair pressure to work even harder. I would be interested to know if BDO topped up their salaries if more than £30k

And yes I abhor the practice of fat cats charging out their staff on huge multiples. its wrong.

I accept that there are different view points here we are at opposite ends , such is life.

Nick

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By cbp99
14th Dec 2020 10:00

They must be really busy now, catching up with all the work that wasn't done when their staff were furloughed.

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By tom123
14th Dec 2020 10:34

Firms as large as BDO should perhaps have had the foresight to see where things may go public opinion wise, in my opinion.

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Replying to tom123:
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By carnmores
14th Dec 2020 10:42

greed makes people go blind

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By Michael Davies
14th Dec 2020 10:55

Interesting.I now only work for myself.
However I worked for a large firm ten years ago,and they would have used Covid as an excuse for a clear out,TBF work must have dropped off.Has this happened,amongst the top twenty ?Of course in these circumstances the employee would have had little excuse to take their employer to any Tribunal.Is this general across all industries?The smaller firm I worked for;I would have offered to come in and be paid only as and when required.Fortunately I could have managed.

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A Putey FACA
By Arthur Putey
14th Dec 2020 18:30

Did the Big 4 put theirs towards their fines for [email protected]@spoor auditing?

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By Tax Dragon
21st Dec 2020 07:30

Odd that you head it up The Moral Debate and then appear to castigate anyone who might take a moral view that goes above and beyond the demands of mere business and law.

What's the basis for (and point of) your question?

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
blue sheep
By NH
21st Dec 2020 07:56

Not the first time I have been called Odd so happy to take that one on the chin!

A few times on here I have taken exception to people that question the morality of someone when that person is simply complying with the law but using it to their best advantage. In my view if it is legal, it is for that person alone to decide whether something is morally acceptable or not and it is not an accountants role to look down on others because their conscience allows them to do something ours would not. Morality is highly subjective and depends on many factors of which we may not be aware.

It would seem that BDO have handed this money back on the basis that it is what they judge to be the correct thing to do morally. Without having any inside knowledge I wondered why they would take such a stance, I find it hard to believe it was due to a collective attack of conscience but equally I cannot see that public opinion would matter too much either.

Not everything on Any Answers has to be a question, sometimes it is interesting to spark a debate and get other peoples viewpoints, if you do not have anything to add to the thread or disagree just move onto the next one.

What's the basis for (and point of) you questioning my question?

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Replying to NH:
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By Tax Dragon
21st Dec 2020 08:48

I didn't understand it, so I asked what you were trying to get at. I thought I made that plain, just as I suppose you thought your question was plain.

I didn't call you odd. I think it odd to spark a debate when you appear to have made your mind up, and in consequence you disagree (and do so with vehemence) with only those people expressing an alternative view. Your comment "if you do not have anything to add to the thread or disagree just move onto the next one" (emphasis added) is telling in that regard. You don't want debate. You want endorsement.

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Replying to Tax Dragon:
blue sheep
By NH
21st Dec 2020 08:56

erm, no - anyhow.....getting back to it - did you actually have anything to add to the thread - if you were BDO would you have handed the money back?

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Replying to NH:
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By Tax Dragon
21st Dec 2020 09:18

I have no knowledge about any of this beyond that which you have provided. So it would be wrong of (indeed, impossible for) me to come to a considered view. I don't like kneejerk views, so (you'll be pleased) I should* indeed drop out.

*Your implication was that they took it in the first place with a mind to review the figures after the event and hand it back in June 2021. All that's happened (based on your description) is that they've handed it back a bit early. If that's right, there are better things to debate anyway, so I'm happy to do as I should.

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