Companies pay back £382m of furlough cash

Companies have paid back more than £380 million in claimed furlough cash to the Government.

Jim Harra, Permanent Secretary of HM Revenue and Customs, said the firms had voluntarily sent the money back to his officials, or did so after being prompted by the department.

It is a small part of the more than £41 billion that has been claimed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, since it started paying out in April.

Companies have been able to claim up to 80% of the salaries of furloughed staff, and the money has found its way to 9.6 million employees.

In September, the PA news agency revealed around £215 million had been returned by companies.

Some of the money was returned in cash, but other companies just took smaller payouts the next time they claimed.

Mr Harra was speaking in front of MPs on the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday morning.

He said £382 million has now been returned to the Government, but added this is not a complete figure as more money is likely to come back.

HMRC has written to 27,000 high-risk companies over their use of the furlough scheme. It expects to investigate around 10,000 of these.

Mr Harra has previously revealed the Government expects between 5% and 10% of furlough money might be lost through fraud and error.

Last week, after a second lockdown was implemented in England, the Government extended the furlough scheme until March. It was set to end on November 1.

In January, officials will review whether employees should have to contribute to the costs of furlough.