Start-up Sheffield eaterie misses furlough scheme due to HMRC delay

A start-up Sheffield restaurant faces an uncertain future after missing out on the furlough scheme because HMRC took a month to send an email.

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 12:54 pm
Updated Monday, 18th May 2020, 11:02 am

Macpot, a macaroni and cheese kitchen in Orchard Square, registered for the PAYE scheme on February 21 when it hired its first employee - but didn’t hear back from HMRC until March 23, bosses say.

In that time the UK went into lockdown and the government set up the furlough scheme to pay the wages of staff unable to work - but with a cut-off date for PAYE registrations of March 19.

Macpot was set up by Emily and Hatty Webster and opened in February.

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Emily and Hatty Webster in Macpot, their new macaroni and cheese restaurant in Orchard Square.

Hatty said: “We've fallen through a gap because we are a young start-up. To furlough staff you need to have submitted your PAYE submission by the 19 March, the date the furlough scheme was announced. We submitted on 26 March but through no fault of our own.

“We understand the government's need to ensure people don't abuse the system by claiming furlough pay for staff that didn't exist but our claim is legitimate and we have five people relying on wages from the restaurant during this really difficult time.

“We've spoken to HMRC about six times, each time escalating the complaint (there is no appeals process) and were told that, despite many similar cases, the government has not given ANY flexibility to allow businesses in our situation to apply.

“This feels incredibly arbitrary, unfair and the opposite of 'nobody will be left behind’.”

A government spokesman said: “Our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is protecting thousands of jobs and has seen around half a million employers apply for help to pay the wages of more than 6m furloughed jobs.

“By extending the scheme from 28 February to 19 March, we have provided support for thousands of extra people, whilst keeping the significant fraud risks under control.”

Extending the cut-off date beyond March 20 would enable criminals to exploit the scheme by providing fraudulent payroll data that HMRC could not easily verify, he added.

And there was a range of other support including in the universal credit allowance, income tax deferrals, support for renters and access to three-month mortgage holidays.

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