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business finance  •  Coronavirus Advice  •  HMRC  •  Small Business

Furlough scheme portal launches for beta testing

By RJP LLP on 9 April 2020

Expected live date for all employers is 20 April 2020 with first payments by 30 April 2020 

HMRC have announced the launch of a beta version of the much-awaited portal site to be used for processing applications for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (80% or furlough scheme). It is currently undergoing phase 1 live testing with selected PAYE employers.

HMRC say they are confident that the portal, which it is anticipated will be open to all employers on 20 April 2020, will be able to handle the millions of applications expected. Guidance will be issued to help employers compile and submit their own claims. After the portal opens on 20 April 2020 for submissions from employers, there will be a 10-day window to the month end for PAYE payroll reporting. HMRC believe this will be enough time for them to process the first payments, which are expected on 30 April 2020.

The site was developed by in-house HMRC developers alongside IT provider CapGemini, who have reportedly worked around the clock to get it live in 18 days. Normally a project like this to provide online services would be years in the making; for instance Making Tax Digital, which has suffered ongoing delays and is still only mandatory for VAT returns. The furlough scheme was originally announced on 20 March 2020 and given the current crisis, delays would have been unacceptable for employers.

HMRC’s CEO and Director General Jim Harra said at a virtual press conference, “We have tested the new system up to a 450,000 volume of claims an hour. The biggest challenge for us is to make sure the maximum number of employers can self-serve, so they do not have to contact us. If they did, we would not be able to provide the level of service on our helplines.’

When questioned about the number of HMRC staff working on the helplines and how they would cope on the 20 April launch day, Harra said: “We have 2,000 colleagues on our helpline, we are looking to redeploy 3,500 staff to that work and we are working with private sector suppliers in case we need more.” He added that although the system will be robust, “if a million employers decide to ring us on the same day, then we won’t be able to handle that.”

More detailed guidance is due to be released in the next few days and as soon as we receive further information, we will be sharing it.

partners@rjp.co.uk

 

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