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HMRC says ‘missing data’ caused false SEISS checks

HMRC’s eligibility checks for the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) have been called into question after accountants and taxpayers reported a rash of false reports after the online checker was launched last week.

12th May 2020
Editor in Chief (interim) AccountingWEB
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HMRC says 'missing data' caused false SEISS checks
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With claims due to be lodged from Wednesday 13 May until Saturday 16 May, accountants started flagging up the problem in Any Answers and in AccountingWEB’s coronavirus Q&A webinar on 7 May.

Nine separate practitioners logged more than a dozen false results within two days of the checker opening for business on Monday 5 May: four instances were false positives, while nine claims that should have been eligible were rejected.

AccountingWEB member SXGuy switched from self employment to a limited company last year and had some cross-over on his 2018/19 tax return. “According to the checker I’m eligible. I know I’m not since I never continued to trade as SE in 19/20,” he commented.

Other people have been reporting false positives, he continued: “I don't think it’s mainly due to late submission. Seems there's a glitch somewhere.”

The same explanation occurred to rhysharris: “There will be masses of appeals and queries.”

To add insult to the underlying frustrations from practitioners who can’t claim on behalf of their clients, Stalytax found out they were eligible and followed the link to register for a claim. “Then [I] got chucked out as I am down as a client of myself and agents cannot access this service.”

Moneybox interview

By Saturday, the issue had escalated to BBC Radio 4’s Moneybox [9:30mins into 9 May episode], which reported that it had referred “dozens” of false claim cases to HMRC.

HMRC told Paul Lewis that although it had launched the eligibility checker web page on Monday, some people had tried it out before it was fully loaded with data. Yet still the cases were coming forward, including two Moneybox listeners, Sarah and Bruce.

The department’s chief executive Jim Harra joined the programme to offer the official explanation, without adding much new information.

“The checker is ready and working for vast, vast majority of people; 2.7m people have used it to date, but here are a small number of people where we will have updated data and they should get a correct answer,” said Hanna.

“We have double-checked thousands of cases and in the vast majority of cases the checker has been correct.”

When pressed by presenter Paul Lewis on why the checker could not indicate the reasons why taxpayers were being rejected for the scheme, Hanna replied: “It hasn’t been possible to design the checker to give reasons in the time available.”

The three main qualification criteria (earning below £50,000pa; 50% of income from self-employment; and filed a self employment return for 2018-19 tax year) applied to the vast majority of eligibility rejections, Hanna said. If taxpayers or their advisers remain convinced they are eligible there is a review mechanism where the department can check the details and confirm why.

“If they do this by end of next week [16 May], we’ll get back to them before the end of the month,” he said.

AccountingWEB asked HMRC to clarify how so many anomalies were coming from the checker and other issues raised by our members, such as the number of review requests that have been submitted.

In response, the department said: “We have been updating the checker with the late filers - who were given extra time to benefit from the scheme if they missed the 31 January deadline. This represented around less than 0.2% of all people who may use the checker. By the time the service opens tomorrow they will have had all their details added.”

The Self Employed Income Support Scheme claim process will start in daily tranches from tomorrow (Wed 13 May). If you have any further questions about eligibility or how to claim, come to Wednesday’s 9am Coronavirus Q&A webinar, when Michael Auwye from Crunch and ATT’s Emma Rawson will be available to answer your SEISS questions.

Replies (36)

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By johnjenkins
13th May 2020 09:27

There are always going to be glitches in any scheme that has to be set up quickly. Just as there can be "typos". in articles John.

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By sally1964
13th May 2020 09:43

It will give some false positives, if you ceased in 2019/20 you wont yet have told HMRC. I assume when you log on from today you would answer the questions truefully and then be told you no longer meet the criteria.

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By Smart Option
13th May 2020 10:18

Client (profits c.£15-20,000, small pension less than £10,000), logged in, only to be told not eligible, so I submitted online form to query.
Received phonecall from HMRC yesterday, to say clients turnover was £70,ooo so this was why he was ineligible!
Seems caller from HMRC was confused with what 'income' was, as his turnover on his self-assessment return was more than the £50,000 limit?
Passing on my query to another team, who'll call from 18 May onwards

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By Swedish Chef
13th May 2020 10:30

I have had 3 instances where the checker tells me that the information (UTR and NINO) does not match, even though they are correct. Claim can therefore not proceed.

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Replying to Swedish Chef:
Morph
By kevinringer
13th May 2020 13:09

Swedish Chef wrote:

I have had 3 instances where the checker tells me that the information (UTR and NINO) does not match, even though they are correct. Claim can therefore not proceed.


I've had cases too. I phoned the ADL who confirmed the UTR and NINO were correct and told me to phone the CV19 helpline. The CV19 helpline said the final letter of some NINOs have been changed for SEISS claims. There are only 4 letters: A, B, C and D. I tried changing them and sure enough they worked!!! Swedish Chef try this and tell is whether it worked or not.
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Replying to kevinringer:
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By redgirl24
13th May 2020 15:42

We had this error message for 3 partners in a partnership who definitely qualify. I couldn’t get through on phone but during a webchat they said it was because there was a partnership cease date on one of the partners’ records - which wasn’t on any of their SA returns because it’s not true! They then removed the date and told me to retry the checker, whilst admitting they didn’t know how long it would take to update. That was last Wednesday and still getting same error today for all 3.

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By farrcorfe
13th May 2020 11:20

Call me a cynic if you will but, despite the Revenue's pathetic excuse as to a software difficulty in allowing agents to process SEISS claims for clients, I believe the conscious decision was that if the taxpayers have to do it themselves then there will be far fewer claims as many taxpayers are not digital/online 'savvy' and won't be able or bother to claim.

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Replying to farrcorfe:
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By philaccountant
14th May 2020 09:34

They also get everyone to sign up for an ID. Which means they can bombard them with emails and threats...

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By gsullymorgan
13th May 2020 11:45

While we cant check eligibility in the same way, we have a SEISS reckoner (one of several we've made free for the duration) at https://www.ferret.co.uk/reckoners/free/ which gives an estimate of eligibility and likely amounts. Feel free to share.

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Morph
By kevinringer
13th May 2020 13:11

I disagree with Jim Harra's claim that HMRC didn't have time to build agents into the system. HMRC took less time to build CJRS which DOES allow agents.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By johnjenkins
13th May 2020 13:41

I think we all know why agents aren't allowed to claim. It's so that all the self-employed have their own "tax account" which is a big step towards MTD for the SE come next April. Although to get quarterly updates should be interesting.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
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By KenKLM
13th May 2020 18:55

Why would I as an agent want to be doing claims on behalf of clients when they could be making fraudulent claims ? Really ? I don’t think so ... let the claimant confirm they have been “Impacted” . Where agents are finding time to even consider doing these claims on top of furlough , tax returns, phone calls , emails , restricting staff time in the office ...

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Replying to KenKLM:
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By philaccountant
14th May 2020 09:37

When your clients claim fails I'm sure you telling them you haven't the time to resolve it will be satisfactory for them. I'm sure them having to fix it on their own will end well. I'm sure you won't be blamed for the whole thing despite being completely powerless to fix it.

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By Eva Dragan
13th May 2020 16:51

Have just received e-mail from HMRC titled REMINDER TO CLAIM SEISS. I know I am not entitled as work only part time and my pension was higher than income from self-employment during last three years. encouraged, I have checked my eligibility again - nope, still ineligible. Why, on earth, HMRC is doing this?

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By ianw33
13th May 2020 17:30

Oh Dear,

Just seen calculation from HMRC:

Trading Profits 2018-2019 £13,300
Trading Profits 2017-2018 £0*
Trading Profits 2016-2017 £0*

Average amount £13,300 - Your grant is £2,660

First year's figure is correct but when I went to school average was over a period or number of items.

* There are profits here - won't disclose for reasons of confidentiality.

Overall, HMRC is offering my client more than she's actually due. Official instruction is to claim and then take up with them if you don't agree.

What gives???

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Replying to ianw33:
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By johnjenkins
14th May 2020 11:54

I'm pretty sure (it came from HMRC) that if profits for previous years are not in keeping with the norm (perhaps there is other income which is more than the profit or whatever) then HMRC will take the last year as "the average".

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Replying to johnjenkins:
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By 1derers
16th May 2020 09:37

Doesn't appear to be the case. All very confusing!!
I have a client who was employed in 2016/17. Employed and self employed in 2017/18 earning (say) £20,000 from employment and £1,000 from self employment, thereby falling into the category of "less than 50% of income from self employment and not eligible". Then only self employed income in 18/19 which totalled (say) £30,000. HMRC have added the £1,000 and £30,000 together giving rise to a claim based on £31,000 divided by 2. Is this correct as I see no guidance from HMRC on it? Surely it should be 2016/17 - no claim (employed). 2017/18 - no claim (employed income more than 50%). 2018/19 claim based on £30,000?

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By KenKLM
13th May 2020 18:24

‘Eligibility check” is being interpreted by many unscrupulous self employed that even if they have been working then they enter their UTR and NI number and it comes back as “eligible” . Does no one in the government or HMRC see the problem with this ? Why also would the self employed that have worked but can say they have been “impacted” get 80% on top of , say 70% of their usual income and end up profiting with 150% of their normal earnings ? What a joke .

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Replying to KenKLM:
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By johnjenkins
14th May 2020 11:56

As the client is making the claim themselves we won't know if they have been working or not until the year, which in the case of subbies it's next April. (although it will be taxable).

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By anniem
15th May 2020 01:42

Can claims only be made between 13 - 16 May? I know some of my clients haven't got a Government Gateway account yet; I've just set one up for my son and am now waiting for his code to be posted. I normally do everything for him through my agent account as he's dyslexic. I also have other clients who don't even own a computer!

My other concern is eligible self employed people will bank the money and 'forget' when it comes to preparing their accounts next year. In theory they're going to have to pay back 20% of it to HMRC anyway!

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Replying to anniem:
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By johnjenkins
15th May 2020 10:42

You can claim anytime, although the quicker the better.
From what I can gather everything is done on line so you don't have to wait for a code to come through the post. As the money is transferred into a bank account then it should be picked up.
If you can't do it online you can phone HMRC with copies of your SA302's and they will do it with you.

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Replying to anniem:
Morph
By kevinringer
15th May 2020 10:52

Agents can't claim but agents can check eligiblity. HMRC issued a warning to agents yesterday. Your son needs to claim but there's nothing preventing you helping your son as his parent. You don't need a code if you do it correctly.

Agents and clients start at the eligibility checker at https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/self-employment-support/enter-unique-taxp... input your son's UTR and NINO. It will tell you when you can submit your claim. That's as far as agents can go. From this point onwards taxpayers have to do it themselves or with the help of a relative or friend or carer. If the earliest time/date has passed you can proceed with the claim using your son's GG account. No code is needed. Your clients must do the same. Anyone who can't claim online can claim over the phone. You'll need to run the eligibility checker first then tell your clients to phone HMRC’s coronavirus helpline on 0800 024 1222 Monday to Friday, 8 am to 4 pm, option 2 then option 2 again.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By johnjenkins
15th May 2020 11:06

Not quite right Kevin. Agents can claim using clients ID and Password. HMRC don't like it and they say "PLEASE don't do it" otherwise our system flags up "fraud" (interesting, it's a pity it can't flag up other things that would be helpful) and your money may take longer to come through.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
Morph
By kevinringer
15th May 2020 12:02

Yes John agents do do it but shouldn't do it.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By johnjenkins
15th May 2020 13:09

Hold up there a minute Kevin. If you are an agent (meaning your client wants you to deal with their tax affairs) and your client instructs you to do something (that is not against the law) because they feel inadequate to carry out the process, then shouldn't doesn't come into it. HMRC need to understand that and comply with the instructions tax payers have given them.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
Morph
By kevinringer
15th May 2020 13:24

John, I was referring to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-...

'You must make the claim yourself. Your tax agent or adviser must not claim on your behalf as this will trigger a fraud alert, and you will have to contact HMRC. This will cause a significant delay to you receiving your payment.'

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By johnjenkins
15th May 2020 14:36

This is what I said in my previous reply to you. HMRC are sending e-mails saying PLEASE don't claim on your clients behalf. HMRC have no legis