Saturday 27 February 2021 9:13 am

Sunak to crack down on Covid support fraudsters with new taskforce

A new fraud taskforce to crack down on people who have exploited the government’s Covid-19 support schemes will be unveiled at next week’s Budget.

The Treasury has announced that it will put £100m into a new Taxpayer Protection Taskforce to investigate those who fraudulently made use schemes such as furlough and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme.

HMRC will oversee the taskforce, which will be run by some 1,250 staff, 115 of which will be new recruits.

The department has already opened about 10,000 inquiries into suspected fraudulent activity,  and has begun some criminal investigations.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will also announce further measures to clamp down on fraud problems with the government’s Bounce Back Loan (BBLs) for small business owners.

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Around 42,000 applications for the scheme have already been rejected for reasons of ineligibility or fraud.

Back in October the National Audit Office (NAO) estimated that the taxpayer could lose up to £26bn on the BBL scheme, which sees small businesses given up to £50,000 in loans.

Due to increased risk of credit and fraud risk related tot the scheme, it has been estimated that between 35 and 60 per cent of lenders could default on the losses. 

Sunak said: “Our coronavirus support schemes have helped millions of honest, hard-working people – but a small minority have seen this pandemic as an opportunity to defraud the taxpayer.

“This will not be tolerated – which is why the new taskforce will crack down on this criminal activity.”