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Look out for HMRC’s online scrutiny

Look out for HMRC’s online scrutiny

Although the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) ended on 30 September 2021, a recent case involving a CJRS claim shows the scope of HMRC’s evolving data gathering.

Claims under the CJRS could be made in respect of furloughed employees who had ceased all work. When it came to directors, they were permitted to carry out their statutory duties without this being classed as working.

Working or not?

A director of Glo-Ball Group Ltd was paid nearly £3,500 under the CJRS. Although the director did no work as such while furloughed, they continued to update the company’s Facebook account.

At the First-Tier Tribunal, HMRC successfully argued that this constituted working, and the CJRS claim was denied; even though the director only took a few minutes each month on the updating.

HMRC’s investigation of information on Facebook accounts, blogs and other social networking sites could impact on taxpayers in various ways. For example:

  • An undeclared trade or property rental could easily be uncovered by HMRC from online adverts.
  • Postings showing an expensive lifestyle could prompt a compliance check from HMRC if the lifestyle is not backed up by the level of income declared on tax returns.

HMRC normally only looks at internet data which is available to everyone, not data where privacy settings have been applied.


Following a recent consultation addressing HMRC’s current data weaknesses in several areas, the government intends to implement changes where data is already held by taxpayers.

One proposal is that hours worked could be collected via real time information PAYE reporting. However, this will only be required where the hours worked are reasonably stable, so not for zero hours contracts.

Newsletter Jul/Aug 2023
Newsletter Jul/Aug 2023
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