24 April 2020

Thank you to each of you our clients who have supported us during this very difficult week.

We wish to thank each of you for your patience and understanding during this last week, and for those that are still waiting for HMRC authorisation codes for your continued patience. We understand how important this Furlough claim is to you and we are acting promptly to process your claim, we have not forgotten you. Your kind understanding and tolerance of delays processing Furlough claims during this past week, has been most welcome. Every member of our staff involved in the delivery of those claims understands the urgency of your furlough claim, realising the significance their actions make in processing your claim, that it will deliver much needed cash to you, your employees and their families. That sense of responsibility, added to the heavy emotional burden felt by our staff,  already straining with the extra work involved in learning to use an unknown, new HMRC portal. Those involved have worked long hours and feel mentally exhausted.

The HMRC portal isn’t ideal and we understand that the reasons are due to the fact that it has been cobbled together in a massive hurry. There have been problems which are shared in the broader accountancy community.  We all want to make the process easier and those concerns have been shared with HMRC.

Accountants throughout the country have started a campaign calling on HMRC to relax furloughing claim restrictions so businesses with fewer than 100 employees can submit their data as file uploads rather than having to enter details individually.

That’s because since the portal opened on Monday, accountants have complained about the laborious 14-screen sequence they have to go through – and the 15-minute time-out limit they are up against.

Some of the issues that have emerged are due to design decisions HMRC made to implement the claims system as quickly as it could and there are hints that once the system beds in, some of the restrictions and validation routines will be tweaked to improve usability.

Below is a copy of the open letter sent to HMRC.

An Open Letter to HMRC regarding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

There are around 5.9m businesses in the UK of which 2.3m are employers.  The vast proportion of those employ less than 100 people and they are advised by the 181,000 accountancy professionals in specialised public practices, who are currently bearing the brunt of supporting the SME business community during the economic fallout from the impact of Covid-19.  This is putting massive pressure on their working days and their wellbeing, most of whom are working incredibly long hours which cannot be sustained.We appreciate the raft of business support measures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced and the great lengths that HM Treasury and HMRC have gone to, in order to deliver that support to the businesses in good time.

However, the process of making the grant applications to the CJRS portal, for the smaller employers, keying the name and National Insurance number of each individual furloughed employee line by line, is causing a practical issue for the accountancy firms and payroll agencies who are processing grant claims for their many clients.

An average independent accountancy firm may have 100-400 claims to process, each with a number of employees.  This application is taking them a considerable amount of time to upload.  On average, a claim for an employer with 60 or 70 employees takes over two hours to type into the portal.

Moreover, if the portal is slow, as it appeared to be on 22nd April as the volume of users increased substantially, it can crash partway through the claim, or slow down to a processing speed which certainly causes the application to take an even longer time.  The accountancy firms and payroll agencies don’t have the resources to dedicate to this, therefore it is falling upon a small number of people to do a vast amount of work, and probably without full recompense for their time.

But even more important than the commercial impact, is the resultant effect on the personal wellbeing of these individuals.  The pressure on their working day is becoming intolerable.

We, the undersigned, are calling on HMRC to change the application process for CJRS grant claims for less than 100 employees and to bring it into line with the process for the larger employers, that is to be able to use the spreadsheet upload system, from the date of the next claim period.

Signed