Accountants urge HMRC to ease SME furlough claims
AccountingWEB is backing a campaign calling on HMRC to relax furloughing claim restrictions so businesses with fewer than 100 employees can submit their data as file uploads rather than having to enter details individually.
Since the portal opened on Monday, accountants have complained about the laborious 14-screen sequence they have to go through – and the 15-minute time-out limit they are up against.
As Kate Upcraft explained in AccountingWEB’s Coronavirus Q&A webinar on Wednesday, larger companies can upload the details in a spreadsheet file and have a looser validation regime that allows them to submit claims without national insurance numbers.
Some of the issues that have emerged are due to design decisions HMRC made to implement the claims system as quickly as it could and there are hints that once the system beds in, some of the restrictions and validation routines will be tweaked to improve useability.
The NINO validation issue has already been raised with HMRC, which told the ICAEW that smaller employers can call its helpline to resolve any issues with missing numbers. Payroll lecturer Kate Upcraft, author of the our popular Get the details right on CJRS article, voiced hopes that the issue could be sorted by extending the upload facility for smaller claimants.
Corporate Finance Network letter
The moving force behind the public campaign to equalise treatment under the CJRS regime for small and large companies is accountant Kirsty McGregor, founder of the Corporate Finance Network.
“The ICAEW and ACCA have already requested this change. It’s frustrating that these things are taking such a long time to be decided. They’ve not said no. What I’m trying to do is move it up their list of priorities. There are so many other edits to be made, I don’t want them to forget about this,” McGregor told AccountingWEB.
So many other sectors and interests are lobbying the Treasury for special consideration that normal consultation routes are no longer effective. “They are inundated with ideas, so using the media is the only way to raise the issues that are occurring,” said McGregor.
While we await further news from HMRC on the issues raised by the Corporate Finance Network letter, we reproduce the full text detailing its main concerns and signatories. Members can voice their approval by commenting below.
|There are around 5.9m businesses in the UK of which 2.3m are employers. The vast proportion of those employ less than 100 people and they are advised by the 181,000 accountancy professionals in specialised public practices, who are currently bearing the brunt of supporting the SME business community during the economic fallout from the impact of Covid-19. This is putting massive pressure on their working days and their wellbeing, most of whom are working incredibly long hours which cannot be sustained.We appreciate the raft of business support measures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced and the great lengths that HM Treasury and HMRC have gone to, in order to deliver that support to the businesses in good time.
However, the process of making the grant applications to the CJRS portal, for the smaller employers, keying the name and National Insurance number of each individual furloughed employee line by line, is causing a practical issue for the accountancy firms and payroll agencies who are processing grant claims for their many clients.
An average independent accountancy firm may have 100-400 claims to process, each with a number of employees. This application is taking them a considerable amount of time to upload. On average, a claim for an employer with 60 or 70 employees takes over two hours to type into the portal.
Moreover, if the portal is slow, as it appeared to be on 22nd April as the volume of users increased substantially, it can crash partway through the claim, or slow down to a processing speed which certainly causes the application to take an even longer time. The accountancy firms and payroll agencies don’t have the resources to dedicate to this, therefore it is falling upon a small number of people to do a vast amount of work, and probably without full recompense for their time.
But even more important than the commercial impact, is the resultant effect on the personal wellbeing of these individuals. The pressure on their working day is becoming intolerable.
We, the undersigned, are calling on HMRC to change the application process for CJRS grant claims for less than 100 employees and to bring it into line with the process for the larger employers, that is to be able to use the spreadsheet upload system, from the date of the next claim period.
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