As the fourth self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) ramps up for applications, HMRC has confirmed the penalty regime with harsh fines for abuse of financial support.
An over-claimed SEISS grant includes any amount of grant which the self-employed individual was not entitled to receive or was more than the amount HMRC said the applicant was entitled to when the claim was made. Overpayments must be notified to HMRC within 90 days of receipt of a SEISS grant.
When deciding the amount of any penalty, HMRC will take into account whether the taxpayer knew they were entitled to the SEISS grant when they received it and when it became repayable or chargeable to tax because the individuals’ circumstances changed.
The HMRC guidance states: `if you knew you were not entitled to your grant and did not tell us in the notification period, the law treats your failure as deliberate and concealed. This means we can charge a penalty of up to 100% on the amount of the SEISS grant that you were not entitled to receive or keep.
`If you did not know you were not entitled to your grant when you received it, we will only charge you a penalty if you have not repaid the grant b 31st January 2020. `
HMRC is also warning taxpayers to be careful when making SEISS claims as there are a number of scams circulating with fraudsters trying to dupe the self-employed into making spurious claims, using emails and text messages. In many cases, the phishing attacks initially look legitimate although they frequently feature spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. It is important not to click any links before checking the veracity of the message.
In the tax authority’s scam update, it stated that it was `aware of phishing campaign telling customers they can claim the fourth SEISS grant as support during the coronavirus pandemic. Do no reply to the email and do not open any links in the message`.
Any phishing emails or texts should be notified to HMRC so they can investigate the scam.