Watch Out! Online scrutiny
Although the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) ended on 30 September 2021, a recent case involving a CJRS claim shows the scope of HMRC’s data gathering. It is a reminder to taxpayers that HMRC’s investigative methods continue to evolve.
Claims under the CJRS could be made in respect of furloughed employees who had ceased all work. When it came to directors, they were permitted to carry out their statutory duties without this being classed as working.
A director of Glo-Ball Group Ltd was paid nearly £3,500 under the CJRS. Although the director did no work as such while furloughed, they continued to update the company’s Facebook account.
In the case heard by the First-Tier Tribunal, HMRC successfully argued that this constituted working and the CJRS claim was denied, even though the director only took a few minutes each month on the updating. Just one piece of work would have been sufficient to invalidate the claim, regardless of whether that work actually generated any income.
HMRC’s investigation of information on Facebook accounts, blogs and other social networking sites could impact taxpayers in various ways. For example:
HMRC normally only looks at internet data which is available to everyone, not data where privacy settings have been applied.
HMRC, not surprisingly, is keen to increase the amount of data it gathers. A recent consultation addressed HMRC’s current data weaknesses in several areas. Although many of the suggestions are not going to be taken forward for the time being, the government intends to implement some changes where data is already held by taxpayers: