The Corporate Finance Network is proud to have launched an initiative to raise awareness of the incredible pressure which independent accountancy firms are suffering on behalf of their SME business clients and to support the whole nation. This has been no more apparent than this week, when, as a result of the HMRC application process for the Job Retention Scheme for employers claiming a furlough grant for <100 employees, these accountants and payroll agents are having to upload hundreds of thousands of claims.
In order to do that, they are required to type in each individual name and national insurance number of every employee. This is a different process to those employers who are claiming for more than 100 employees, who are able to upload a spreadsheet containing all their data. On average, a claim for 70 employees can take over two hours to process, whereas a claim for say 110 employees only takes 10-15 minutes.
Kirsty McGregor, Founder of The Corporate Finance Network, explained “I appreciate that this scheme has been created in a very short amount of time, and some design decisions were clearly made. But if the functionality of the spreadsheet upload is available, I would call upon HMRC to urgently consider extending it to a lower threshold, maybe for 20 employees, or for making it optional.
“This variation in application methodologies seems to discriminate against the smaller employers, but the brunt of the work is being felt by accountancy practices and payroll agencies around the country, whose staff are working hours which are, quite frankly, damaging to their physical and mental health.
I am aware that the professional accountancy bodies have been raising this very practical issue with HMRC for weeks before it was even announced, and again since the application was eventually publicised, but after conversations with many accountancy firms this week, I felt it should be prioritised and more attention needed to be drawn to it. Hence I asked some colleagues in the wider profession to support my letter, and I have been overwhelmed by how quickly and readily these companies have been willing to do that.”
A number of software suppliers, accountancy networks, trade media and industry event organisers have co-signed the letter to HMRC.
Kirsty concluded, “I hope that HMRC will be able to announce that they have been able to amend the application process before the next claim period in a few weeks’ time”
The full text of the letter is:
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 businesse s 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.
Please could you reply to Kirsty McGregor, founder of The Corporate Finance Network, with your response.
The Corporate Finance Network
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