Audit challenger firm RSM has repaid £4.4m to the government, having decided to do so in a board meeting earlier this month, City A.M can reveal.
RSM’s board made the decision to repay the the money in full on 8 December. CEO Rob Donaldson said the firm did not see the decision as an opportunity to seek publicity, and so made no announcement of the move at the time.
“As the pandemic unfolded and the pressures on the economy and our business intensified, we drew upon a number of measures to preserve our business, protect jobs and continue to provide the best possible service to our clients. With a strong control over our cost base, and the resilience and talent of our people we have done an incredible job adapting to a new working environment,” he said.
“In terms of our responsibilities right now we believe they lie with the taxpayer first, followed by our people and our clients, partners and shareholders. We continue to operate with caution, drawing upon the strengths of our business. We believe the firm is well placed to manage future risks successfully.”
The news follows an embarrassing u-turn made by rival firm BDO at the weekend, which received criticism for not giving back £4.1m it received from the government to fund its use of the furlough scheme.
BDO made use of the scheme despite making a £137m profit and paying partners more than £500,000 each. Initially BDO told various media outlets it had no plans to pay back the money, arguing it had been correctly used to save jobs at the firm, but over the weekend managing partner Paul Eagland told The Sunday Times that the board had changed its mind after seeing the reaction to the payouts.
“I don’t want this to fester,” he said. “The money will go back to HMRC by Christmas.”
Auditors and furlough
Fellow challenger firm Mazars also made the decision to pay back money it had claimed via the furlough scheme, handing back £1.1m to the government.
A Mazars spokesperson said: “Mazars used the CJRS scheme – which ran to October this year – for four months between April and July, with up to 349 people across the firm affected. However the firm only claimed for the first two months, April and May.
“The total amount claimed for those two months was £1.1m. Mazars has repaid the money to the government.”
The Big Four firms – KPMG, Deloitte, PwC and EY – did not make used of the furlough scheme in the UK. Neither did challenger firm Grant Thornton.
Combined auditors have now paid back nearly £10m to the taxpayer.