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Sue Lucas

HMRC will launch their Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) portal on the 20th April. The portal has gone through vigorous testing over the past few weeks but what hasn't been tested is the volume of people trying to access the system on Monday. There may be system slowness.
HMRC Chief Executive Jim Harra accompanied this announcement with the following details for tax agents: 

• The scheme is due to go live on 20 April with first payments being made 10 days later
• Future claims will be paid within four to six days
• The online CJRS service is now undergoing beta testing with a group of selected employers
• Applicants will access the system using their current government gateway login
• Further guidance will be issued by HMRC explaining on how to use the system
• Following the initial backdated claims, claims can be made no more than 14 days before payrolls are run but will be accepted for the different pay periods
• Tax agents who are authorised to act for PAYE matters will be able to file claims on behalf of their clients 
• File-only agents and payroll bureaus will not be able to access the service “due to data protection reasons”.

Employees you can claim for
You can only claim for furloughed employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. Employees hired after 19 March 2020 cannot be furloughed and claimed for in accordance with this scheme.
Employees can be on any type of employment contract, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contracts. Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed. Grants under the scheme are not counted as ‘access to public funds’, and you can furlough employees on all categories of visa.
To be eligible for the grant, when on furlough, an employee cannot undertake work for, or on behalf, of the organisation or any linked or associated organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue.
Employers are free to consider allocating any critical business tasks to staff that are not furloughed. While on furlough, the employee’s wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions.

If you made employees redundant or they stopped working for you after 19 March 2020
If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 19 March 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages through the scheme.

If your employees are working reduced hours
If an employee is working, but on reduced hours, or for reduced pay, they will not be eligible for this scheme.

If your employee is on unpaid leave
You can only claim for employees that started unpaid leave after 19 March 2020.

Agreeing to furlough employees
Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement.
When employers are making decisions in relation to the process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.
To be eligible for the grant employers must confirm in writing to their employee that they have been furloughed. A record of this communication must be kept for five years.
You do not need to place all your employees on furlough. However, those employees who you do place on furlough cannot undertake work for you.
Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. Employers may need to seek legal advice on the process. If sufficient numbers of staff are involved, it may be necessary to engage collective consultation processes to procure agreement to changes to terms of employment.
To claim, you will need:

• Your employer PAYE reference number
• The number of employees being furloughed
• National Insurance Numbers for the employees you want to furlough
• Names of the employees you want to furlough
• Payroll/works number for the employees you want to furlough
• Your Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer
• Reference or Company Registration Number
• Claim period (start and end date)
• Amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 consecutive weeks)
• Your bank account number and sort code
• Your contact name
• Your phone number

You will need to calculate the amount you are claiming. HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of your claim.

If you use an agent who is authorised to act for you for PAYE purposes, they will be able to make a claim on your behalf. However, there is additional work to do in order to submit returns on behalf of clients, so there will be an additional cost that agents will have to pass on to clients that need or want agents to make these submissions on their behalf.  Should you need Moore South to do this for you, please get in touch with your local Moore South office.
If you use a file only agent (who files your RTI return but doesn’t act for you on any other matters) they won’t be authorised to make a claim for you and you will need to make the claim yourself. Your file only agent can assist you in obtaining the information you need to claim (which is listed above). We are making the claim process as straightforward as possible.
You should make your claim using the amounts in your payroll - either shortly before or during running payroll.
If appropriate, worker’s wages should be reduced to 80% of their salary within your payroll before they are paid. This adjustment will not be made by HMRC.
Minimum furlough periods
Any employees you place on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks. When they return to work, they must be taken off furlough. Employees can be furloughed multiple times, but each separate instance must be for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks.