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COVID-19: Firms urged to get ready for furlough scheme

9 April: HMRC is asking agents and businesses to be ready to apply for grants through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ahead of its launch on 20 April.

HMRC has written to many agents and businesses in the past few days asking them to be ready to apply for grants when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is launched on 20 April 2020.

The launch date announcement was repeated by HMRC Chief Executive, Jim Harra, when he gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on 8 April. He told the committee that HMRC aims to start payments of the grant to employers on 30 April 2020. 

Applications will need to be made online. It will not be possible to make claims by phone. ICAEW does not yet know whether separate provision will be made for those agents and businesses who are digitally excluded.

The CJRS will allow employers to claim 80% of the wages of their staff (up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee) who have been furloughed. ICAEW’s Tax Faculty is pleased to report that agents who are authorised to act on behalf of clients for PAYE matters, will be able to claim.  However, ‘file-only’ agents, including Payroll Bureaus, will not be able access the service for data protection reasons. Exactly what authority will be needed is as yet unconfirmed.

File-only agents are still likely to be involved indirectly as employers may need to ask for information held by the agent to make their claim. Businesses will need the following information for each of their furloughed employees:

  • National Insurance number (NINO). It is not known how employees who do not need to have a NINO will be included.
  • Salary, National Insurance and pension contribution information that allows business to calculate the claim amount.