In a final kick in the teeth for many self-employed and PAYE company directors who were excluded from the government’s COVID financial support, it has now been confirmed that the Treasury expects to recover only £1 of every £4 fraudulently claimed during the pandemic.
Unbelievably, this means writing off £4.3bn of the £5.8bn of taxpayer money stolen from emergency initiatives including the furlough scheme and the self-employed income support programme.
The figures were revealed by The Times from documents quietly published on the HMRC website last week. This is the first time Rishi Sunak’s department has put a number on how much it expects its new £100 million 1,265-strong anti-fraud taskforce to get back from Covid-19 scammers.
Their projections are considerably worse than previously predicted by HMRC CEO Jim Harra, when in November 2021 he said the department would struggle to recoup more than half of the money lost.
And yet the very same financial packages, which the government hails as successfully supporting all those unable to earn income during the pandemic, were denied to millions due to “fraud risk”. We can only imagine the sheer fury of those excluded from receiving the financial support they so desperately needed.