Furlough claim deadline creates potential for payroll pain

18th November 2020

There is growing alarm that employers face a shortened deadline of just 14 days for claims under version 3 of the furlough scheme, which began on 1 November 2020. There are concerns amongst business managers that it will be impossible to submit grant applications within the time limit.

Under version 3 of the furlough scheme, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

An unheralded change from version 2 of the furlough scheme which ended on 31 October is the much shorter time period for submitting claims. Previously, the deadline had been a month.

Employers now have to submit their claims for the prior month by the 14th of the following month, unless this falls on a weekend, in which case the deadline is the next week day..

Claims up to 30 November have to be made by 14 December

However, a claim once made can be increased, provided it is amended within 28 calendar days of the end of the month to which it relates (but that extension does not apply if an over-claim is made).

Reasonable excuse

It is also possible to claim after the deadline if there is a reasonable excuse

By reasonable excuse, HMRC has provided some examples

  • your partner or another close relative died shortly before the claim deadline
  • you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your claim
  • you had a serious or life-threatening illness, including Coronavirus related illnesses, which prevented you from making your claim (and no one else could claim for you)
  • a period of self-isolation prevented you from making your claim (and no one else could make the claim for you)
  • your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online claim
  • service issues with HMRC online services prevented you from making your claim
  • a fire, flood or theft prevented you them from making your claim
  • postal delays that you could not have predicted prevented you from making your claim
  • delays related to a disability you have prevented you from making your claim
  • a HMRC error prevented you from making your claim

Problems for employers

The much shorter deadline will create problems for employers and payroll agents, and in some cases may be too tight where payments for a month are made in arrears in the following month once timesheets have been processed.

By moving the deadline forward for claims, it makes completing submissions of some payrolls that straddle month ends unnecessarily challenging. 30 days is much more reasonable.

As it stands, the shorter time period could lead to estimated claims having to be made, which are corrected later.

The guidance makes clear that employers can claim before, during or after the payroll is processed, as long as the claim is submitted by the relevant claim deadline.

An employer cannot submit a claim more than 14 days before the claim period end date.

When making a claim:

  • the employer does not have to wait until the end date of the claim period for a previous claim before making the next claim
  • the employer can make the claim more than 14 days in advance of the pay date (for example, if employees are paid in arrears)

All claims for periods from 1 July 2020 to 31 October 2020 must be submitted no later than 30 November 2020.

The new 14-day deadline means claims for November onwards must be submitted by the following dates:

Claim for furlough days in Claim must be submitted by
November 2020 14 December 2020
December 2020 14 January 2021
January 2021 15 February 2021
February 2021 15 March 2021
March 2021 14 April 2021

As stated above, HMRC says it may accept a claim made after the relevant deadline if there is a reasonable excuse for failing to make the claim on time, and the claim is then made without delay after the excuse no longer applied.

HMRC says it will not consider reasonable excuses in advance of a claim deadline.

There is pressure being directed at HMRC from business groups for the 14-day deadline to be made longer, maybe reverting to the 30-day deadline of the earlier version of the furlough scheme.

We await to see if that is successful.

In the meantime, for more details of the furlough scheme, please see our separate guide.

Covid transition hub

Check out our Business after COVID-19: Transition Knowledge Hub for more guidance and advice on managing the pandemic.

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