Revenue accused of harassing businesses over Covid wage subsidy scheme

Tax agency threatens recipients that fail to respond with in-depth tax audit

Between March and September, over €2.7 billion of support has been given to over 69,500 employers via the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme

Between March and September, over €2.7 billion of support has been given to over 69,500 employers via the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme

 

Revenue has been accused of harassing and intimidating businesses availing of the Government’s Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme.

The tax agency, which administers the scheme, has been writing to participating businesses, seeking proof of their eligibility and demanding a response within five days.

In the letter, seen by The Irish Times, Revenue warns that it will be forced to claw back the subsidy if recipients fail to provide the correct information.

It also warns that failure to respond to the letter may result in “a more in-depth” audit of the employer’s tax affairs.

“This is nothing short of disgusting behaviour in the middle of a pandemic,” Co Louth-based accountant Derek Carrie said.

“If any private business sent a letter of this nature to their customers the author would be fired,” he said in a letter to The Irish Times.

Mr Carrie said this was the busiest time of the year for accountants with the filing of tax returns, a period made busier by the addition of various pandemic-related schemes, loans and grants.

Threats

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), and its successor the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), were introduced to provide income support to businesses adversely impacted by the pandemic.

To qualify, employers have to prove that at least 75 per cent of their turnover has been cancelled out by the crisis.

When contacted, Revenue insisted it had not made any threats to any businesses or individuals and that it was conducting a programme of checks on all employers – currently more than 66,000 – who availed of the scheme to confirm their eligibility “and, crucially, that the monies involved were properly paid out to employees”.

“The requirements set out in the letter are very straightforward. Revenue is asking employers to confirm eligibility for the scheme, specifically by reference to the decline in their turnover in Q2 of this year, and are asking for sample payslips,” it said.

“Revenue is not seeking detailed tax information of any kind in these letters. As such, letters issued as part of this programme have included a requirement to respond within five working days,” it said.

Reminder letter

The agency said it had recently issued a reminder letter to some businesses which had not yet responded to the initial request for information.

“Given the very significant investment of public funds involved, businesses are advised, as they had been from the outset of the scheme in published Revenue guidance, that if confirmation of eligibility is not or cannot be provided, Revenue will seek to claw-back the subsidy paid to such employers,” it said.

It also noted that identifying, targeting and confronting non-compliance was a standard element of Revenue’s overall compliance framework.

Between March and September, over €2.7 billion of support has been given to over 69,500 employers via the TWSS, covering over 600,000 workers. The EWSS, which runs to the end of March, is expected to cost a further €2.2 billion.