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Furlough scheme portal opens for claims on 20 April

HMRC announced plans this week to open the online Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) service on 20 April with the first claims being paid 10 days later. File-only and payroll bureaus will be omitted from claiming.

9th Apr 2020
Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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Since the scheme was announced on 20 March, many business owners have been concerned whether the HMRC will pay CJRS grants soon enough to save cash-starved businesses before it is too late.

Yesterday, HMRC chief executive Jim Harra told the Treasury select committee the CJRS will be ready to go a week on Monday. His announcement was accompanied by an HMRC note to tax agents setting out further details:

  • The scheme is due to go live on 20 April with first payments being made 10 days later
  • Future claims will be paid within four to six days
  • The online CJRS service is now undergoing beta testing with a group of selected employers
  • Applicants will access the system using their current government gateway login
  • Further guidance will be issued by HMRC next week (week commencing 13 April) explaining on how to use the system 
  • Following the initial backdated claims, claims can be made no more than 14 days before payrolls are run but will be accepted for the different pay periods 
  • Tax agents who are authorised to act for PAYE matters will be able to file claims on behalf of their clients  
  • File-only agents and payroll bureaus will not be able to access the service “due to data protection reasons”.

Now being tested 

In yesterday’s meeting, Harra told MPs the basic IT service went live last weekend. On Wednesday morning (8 April), it was then opened up for live testing with a “small number of invited employers who are today going to be using it in earnest”.

“We have tested its capacity and we are confident that it will be able to cope with the very large volume of claims that we expect to receive,” Harra said. “We have scaled system to cope with 2m PAYE schemes and claims in first 10 days,” Harra said.

With a design capacity of 450,000 users per hour, HMRC thinks it is ready to meet the initial influx of backdated claims. Anyone who has tried to book a supermarket delivery recently will be familiar with the queueing that happens when demand is high, Harra said, but with the system capacity in place, that should lessen before too long.

Apart from around 600 PAYE scheme operators who couldn't file electronically, the new claim portal will be available to any PAYE scheme employer. However, those who pay employees through payroll bureaus will not be able get the processor to claim for them.

“These employers will need to have own online credentials so they can process these claims themselves,” Harra said. 

Support pack for claims due next week

Harra admitted that the biggest challenge would be helping the maximum number of employers to serve themselves online rather than having to contact HMRC for advice in large numbers. “Clearly, if very large volumes of employers have to contact us in the concentrated period of just a few days, then we will really struggle to provide the kind of service that we would want to,” he said.

According to Harra, 2,000 HMRC staff will be redeployed for CJRS support, with another 3,500 staff from other areas who could be called on if needed. HMRC is also working with professional bodies such as the CIOT and ICAEW to provide support and help to their clients. 

Following guidance released on 26 March and 4 April, HMRC is putting together a support pack on how to compile and upload claims. However, he added, “If a million employers try to ring us all on the same day, it will not be possible [to provide] enough resources to handle all of those calls at the same time.”

As is usual these days, AccountingWEB members were tracking the announcements in Any Answers within hours. In addition to the printed guidance, [email protected] flagged up an HMRC webinar on the CJRS scheme taking place on Wednesday 15 April.

Agile delivery

Harra told MPs that he was “really proud” of the way his colleagues had worked with CapGemini at such speed to get the service ready by 20 April.

Even under the pressure of such important deadlines and the parliamentary grilling, the HMRC managed to crack a cvil servant’s joke. “This experience has shown people at HMRC can do things that we didn't know we can do, the way we organise, the way we work and the way we organise how quickly we can deliver things,” he said.

“I do fear that ministers will believe in future we can do things expect everything delivered in one month.”

Harra also confirmed that HMRC would be setting up an online "whistle-blower" service for workers to report employers who abuse the system.

Victoria Todd of LITRG welcomed this move saying "Reports we are receiving from workers indicate to us that there are a number of employers out there who are asking their staff to carry on working, even though they have been placed on furlough.

It seems there are some employers who intend to claim the grant but who then have no intention on paying it over to their employees."

Replies (70)

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By Summerjosh
10th Apr 2020 10:24

I'd like to know from other accountants how much they are looking to charge their clients for assistance in claiming the Grant's under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

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Replying to Summerjosh:
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By seitler
11th Apr 2020 23:45

I've been thinking about this too. I guess we need to see exactly what's involved first

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Replying to seitler:
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By SXGuy
12th Apr 2020 10:13

I have about 6 clients with a total of maybe 20 employees so I'll prob not charge anything or perhaps add a small fee to next year's costs. But personally I feel like I should do as much as possible to retain my clients during this time and if claiming their employees pay helps to keep them afloat then I feel I should help.

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Replying to SXGuy:
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By legerman
13th Apr 2020 14:10

SXGuy wrote:

I have about 6 clients with a total of maybe 20 employees so I'll prob not charge anything or perhaps add a small fee to next year's costs. But personally I feel like I should do as much as possible to retain my clients during this time and if claiming their employees pay helps to keep them afloat then I feel I should help.

I'm similar to you, 5 furloughed payrolls and 17 employees. I certainly don't mind giving up a couple of hours a month to get them processed. Much harder for those with lots of payrolls though who will no doubt have to pass on the costs.

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Replying to SXGuy:
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By The_hobbit
15th Apr 2020 14:54

I totally agree, if they are having to furlough, then they are not earning, I am offering to help without charging, and stopping them worrying on how to do this, on top of everything else. I am still working and earning, and every little helps.
Once we have done the first one, I am sure it will be straight forward, (as long as the system doesn't crash)

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Replying to Summerjosh:
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By Sanjeev Nanda
13th Apr 2020 12:05

Really puts all of this into perspective, now that dispensation has been coming, but none for the financial employees. A profession being left to hang dry, I fear.
~Sanjeev Nanda

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By djtax
10th Apr 2020 11:44

An HMRC system that can cope with the high volumes anticipated - that will be a first!

J Harra does not say how long it will take HMRC to process claims nor how long until businesses receive the money claimed.

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Replying to djtax:
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By legerman
13th Apr 2020 14:04

djtax wrote:

J Harra does not say how long it will take HMRC to process claims nor how long until businesses receive the money claimed.

10 days initially then 4-6 days for future claims

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By 0098087
12th Apr 2020 14:08

So with an employer with 20 employees we have to
Enter their details individually. Sorry, madness when we have 100 payrolls. So can someone tell
Me, are Starbucks or mods entering each individuals details individuality? I’d like to know

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Replying to 0098087:
Psycho
By Wilson Philips
12th Apr 2020 15:28

Stop whining. These are mad times and there are people out there with far more to worry about than a little extra bit of workload - be thankful that you’ve got the work.

So the system isn’t perfect. What on earth do you expect from a facility of this magnitude and complexity that has had to be rushed, from scratch, into availability in a very short space of time?

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Replying to 0098087:
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By legerman
13th Apr 2020 14:13

0098087 wrote:

So with an employer with 20 employees we have to
Enter their details individually. Sorry, madness when we have 100 payrolls. So can someone tell
Me, are Starbucks or mods entering each individuals details individuality? I’d like to know

Wait until we have more details. It's doubful if HMRC would expect an employer/agent to have to enter every employee individually, especially if there were hundreds or thousands of employees.

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Replying to legerman:
By TMK Accounts
14th Apr 2020 15:50

By some small miracle will the system already be populated with an employers current employees as per RTI submissions?

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Replying to legerman:
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By Ian McTernan CTA
15th Apr 2020 10:46

It's HMRC. I expect you will have to enter them...

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By rockallj
14th Apr 2020 11:12

Would give my right arm for the beta testers to tell us what the system entails...................................

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By zlss116
14th Apr 2020 11:27

I appreciate that the next guidance note may answer this, but does anyone know what can be claimed on 20 April?

'Following the initial backdated claims, claims can be made no more than 14 days before payrolls are run but will be accepted for the different pay periods'

This seems to suggest the first claim (on 20 April) will cover furloughed pay already made - March weekly/month and the first 2 weekly payrolls of the new tax year.

Or do people think it means you can claim for furloughed pay up to 30 April as that is less than 14 days from 20 April? Apologies for rather clumsy phrasing of this question.

If 2 claims are required, presumably the second one can be made the next day?

Thanks in advance.

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Replying to zlss116:
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By SXGuy
14th Apr 2020 12:24

Both claims can only be made 3 weeks apart, so you either make the claim for everything prior to the date of claim and 14 days after and then wait 3 weeks for the next claim, or you make just claim for everything prior to claim date and wait 3 weeks to claim any pay since the last. That's my understanding.

It all sounds rather difficult, so ill have to adopt something which allows employees to receive pay around the same time as they would have done, perhaps by claiming anything prior to 20th April, and then claim May's 3 weeks later.

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Replying to SXGuy:
Kitten
By Hazel Accounts
14th Apr 2020 15:12

So, assume my client furloughs staff on 1st April, they can claim for all April (80% pay) on 20th April, then can't claim again until 21 May? Suppose staff go back to work on 14th May - they were furloughed for over 3 consecutive weeks - will they be able to claim the remaining 2 weeks or will this be rejected as under 3 weeks for a further period? Problem is we don't know when some businesses may be able to at least partially reopen.

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Replying to zlss116:
Helen Froggett Thomson
By Helen Froggett-Thomson
14th Apr 2020 13:47

Depends when staff are usually paid surely? for monthly paid, this is what we are extrapolating from the information. The reimbursed furlough pay applied for 20th April (ono) will be for any furloughed time in March for which the salary was already paid and then as we can apply 14 days ahead, for the end of April pay run, and then was thinking each month around the same time (20th or thereabouts) thereafter?

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Replying to Helen Froggett-Thomson:
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By geoffmw1
15th Apr 2020 13:36

just remember that PAYE months especially for employees paid weekly are 6th to 5th of following month

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Replying to Helen Froggett-Thomson:
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By geoffmw1
15th Apr 2020 13:36

just remember that PAYE months especially for employees paid weekly are 6th to 5th of following month

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Helen Froggett Thomson
By Helen Froggett-Thomson
14th Apr 2020 13:51

Also wondered what we take 'payroll bureau' to be? would that be Umbrella Companies? or would it be the payroll department of an accountancy practice (for example)...

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Replying to Helen Froggett-Thomson:
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By sallyrichardson
15th Apr 2020 09:58

A payroll bureau is someone who just processes and submits large volumes of payrolls but does not complete other accounting services and would not have agent authorisation, just "file only" privileges. Many accountants outsource the payroll for their clients to bureaus. It is these bureaus that won't be able to submit claims.

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Helen Froggett Thomson
By Helen Froggett-Thomson
15th Apr 2020 09:17

Hi Maddy, thanks for this great piece. I've got a little question to do with the info in the subheading: 'File-only and payroll bureaus will be omitted from claiming.' Now I've been looking into this and have found this info on the .gov site 'If you use an agent who is authorised to act for you for PAYE purposes, they will be able to make a claim on your behalf. If you use a file only agent (who files your RTI return but doesn’t act for you on any other matters) they won’t be authorised to make a claim for you and you will need to make the claim yourself. ' So, is 'an agent who is authorised to act for you for PAYE purposes' a payroll bureau? or is it to do with the taxation issues? would you have to do the accounts for someone you are also doing the payroll for to qualify? what is the distinction between the 'file only agent', a payroll bureau and say an outsourced payroll attached to an accountancy practice? Sorry if I am missing something obvious here. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on this :)

Thanks (2)
Replying to Helen Froggett-Thomson:
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By arthvirg230
15th Apr 2020 09:42

it's as clear as mud i'm afraid - we do 250 payrolls - and have both 64-8 and FBI2 in place for these clients - but we can't access a gateway account as none of our clients uses one!! - so what we have done this week is set up a gateway account for EVERY payroll client - using our email and phone number - hopefully this will cover us and enable us to make the furlough claims for clients - i just hope the activation codes come through in time......

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Replying to arthvirg230:
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By murphy1
15th Apr 2020 09:55

That a huge piece of work, and may not be needed. We are struggling to get everything done as it is, with all the client calls and emails looking for support

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Replying to arthvirg230:
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By sallyrichardson
15th Apr 2020 10:00

I may be missing something - but you need to get an Agent gateway account for your practice / payroll business. You then ask for authorisation for each client and they are added to your agent account. You are not allowed to access their accounts directly and two step verification will make it very difficult for you to do so.

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Replying to arthvirg230:
Morph
By kevinringer
15th Apr 2020 12:37

HMRC stopped requiring activation codes for PAYE online schemes enrolled yesterday: they were instantly activated. It maybe worth logging into those that you are waiting a code and see if they still need activating.

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Replying to kevinringer:
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By PeterCoekin
15th Apr 2020 16:49

Is that right? How long did you have to wait?

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Replying to PeterCoekin:
Morph
By kevinringer
15th Apr 2020 17:14

PeterCoekin wrote:

How long did you have to wait?

Wait for what?
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Replying to Helen Froggett-Thomson:
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By sallyrichardson
15th Apr 2020 10:05

As above - if you are an agent for a client for PAYE you will have and Agent Government Gateway account and will have 64-8 clearance for them. The payrolls are then all shown on a list on your government gateway account. If you just file their RTIs and do not have 64-8 you will not be able to claim for them, but can help them to make the claim themselves, but they will need their own Government Gateway account. You are not allowed to access their account for them, but can give them the information required to make the claim.

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By murphy1
15th Apr 2020 09:39

Perhaps already answered on another thread, but here goes:

We use an agent log in, and not individual client specific log ins - around 125-150 payrolls. Do we need a client specific log in for this?

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Replying to murphy1:
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By sallyrichardson
15th Apr 2020 10:02

No - it's our understanding that if you can see all of your payroll clients on your PAYE portal you will be able to submit claims for them. This is definitely true if you are on the beta version like us and can see payments made etc. Some larger practices are on the old portal and I'm not sure if they will be able to.

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Replying to sallyrichardson:
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By monksview
15th Apr 2020 10:07

I was never aware there were 2 different versions, we've never had access to the employers payment pages. We have over 200 payrolls and always send in 64-8s and FBI2s. Amy idea how we can move ourselves over to the more update version?

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Replying to sallyrichardson:
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By murphy1
15th Apr 2020 10:18

Thanks Sally, yes we are on the Beta system, and actually just checked that every payroll client is there. 2 missing, so will sort that now. This is really helpful

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Replying to murphy1:
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By sallyrichardson
15th Apr 2020 12:08

No problem. we have 2 new payrolls coming in for April so are trying to request agent auth ASAP!

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Replying to murphy1:
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By Cathy Milligan
15th Apr 2020 10:04

My understanding is that if you use an agent login, and when you log in, you can see a list of all your PAYE clients, and within that listing you can access the individual clients' RTI numbers and payments made (and how HMRC have allocated those payments) then you will be able to claim the CJRS for your client.

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Replying to Cathy Milligan:
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By monksview
15th Apr 2020 10:12

When we log in we can see notices and there are all sorts of other links but we've never been able to see the payments made

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Replying to monksview:
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By Cathy Milligan
15th Apr 2020 10:25

I do recall, perhaps 2 years ago, an option to "update" my PAYE account, which I did, and then the look of the screens changed a bit - so perhaps I am on a newer site? I would expect you will still be able to make the claim if you see "recent notices" etc

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Replying to Cathy Milligan:
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By monksview
15th Apr 2020 10:43

I've found this Accweb question from last October on this subject. Looking through the replies, there was a link to upgrade but when you click on it, it says if you have over 200 payroll clients you are not eligible. So it looks like we may be stuffed. Howe ridiculous, how are we supposed to do a full job for our clients?
https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/have-hmrc-removed-agents-pay...

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By MSD1968
15th Apr 2020 10:27

Continuing the thread on PAYE portal access, we don't always set up agent access and clients can rarely find their portal login and often let the authorisation code expire either for their own access or for us as agents. If we request access now or ask the client to register, the authorisation code will often go to an office which is closed (including my own) and HMRC letters are not always forwarded by Royal Mail. My own post is forwarded manually weekly so that will cause a delay. I see chaos ahead!

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By Ian McTernan CTA
15th Apr 2020 10:42

Applicants will access the system using their current government gateway login

And that's where it all falls down. Many clients don't have one- they have never needed it as we do their payroll, but as we use third party software we are not down as agents for PAYE (despite being down as agents for other taxes..what a stupid system this country has with different numbers for everything!!!).

To add to this, the agent authorisation on HMRC site has rejected two clients details saying they are not right- despite us having filed payroll for those clients for many years.

Going to be messy.

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By Degan89
15th Apr 2020 10:48

Hi all, I submit payrolls through sage payroll which is linked to our agents gateway, and have 64-8s in place for all of our PAYE clients. When i log into our HMRC agent gateway i can see all our PAYE, VAT , CT etc clients. However i can't check on this online gateway any PAYE that is outstanding (can check by calling HMRC) but i can submit P11D's online if needed.

Am i classed as a file only agent/payroll bureau?

Any advice welcome.

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Replying to Degan89:
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By sallyrichardson
15th Apr 2020 12:14

Hi. If you see "Beta" in orange at the top of the page on your GG account, and can see Allocations and Payments made for your client's PAYE you should be on the beta system and will definitely be able to submit claims.

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By hmwhiteca
15th Apr 2020 11:34

One of the required pieces of information is a SA UTR, CT UTR or Companies House number.
What do you think we will be able to do for unincorporated charities who don't have any of the above?

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Replying to hmwhiteca:
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By geoffmw1
15th Apr 2020 13:45

they should have a number for gift aid claims

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By Eva Dragan
15th Apr 2020 11:36

I am not clear what happens to workers on Minimum Wage - they are due salary rise from 01/04/2020, so claiming for April what figure we will use? February salary or April salary?

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Replying to Eva Dragan:
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By MSD1968
15th Apr 2020 11:49

I am not clear on that either and I don't recall seeing any guidance. A similar point is directors moving to the new Secondary Threshold (lower than the Primary Threshold for 2020/2021) of £730pcm or, in fact, any change to director's remuneration or salaries?

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Replying to Eva Dragan:
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By tom123
15th Apr 2020 12:10

February is the benchmark for salary.
No hours are being 'worked' on furlough, so NMW does not apply.

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Replying to Eva Dragan:
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By sallyrichardson
15th Apr 2020 12:12

Minimum wage does not apply to furloughed workers as they are not doing any work. For salaried employees all claims must be based on Feb 2020. If they wish to "top up" to 100% this top up can be based on new director's salary levels, but the 80% must be based on Feb - or everyone would give themselves massive pay rises to claim the £2.5k!

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Replying to sallyrichardson:
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By MSD1968
15th Apr 2020 12:52

But for employees not on fixed salary:

"Employees whose pay varies
If the employee has been employed for 12 months or more, you can claim the highest of either the:

- same month’s earning from the previous year
- average monthly earnings for the 2019-2020 tax year"

This does suggest a variation is possible or else the above guidance would anchor salary in February 2019 for comparison? I agree that there is no mention of normal salary increases in April 2020 (NMW or otherwise) and I agree that no work is being done so NMW does not apply.

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