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This week's opinion: 4 February 2021

02 February 2021
Issue: 4778 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
What is the value of the list of furlough claimants?

What are we to make of the recently published list of businesses which claimed under the coronavirus job retention scheme ( 

It confirms how vital the scheme has been in supporting businesses. Seeing a spreadsheet with 741,285 business names really brings home the extent of support that the government has had to provide to keep businesses going.

But how valuable is the information? Publication is about transparency – so that we can see where public money has been spent. Presumably, however, HMRC hopes that it will aid in the detection of fraud if employees who have not been furloughed see their employer’s name on the list. We know that fraud is a problem but I do wonder whether publication will really help: a lot of time could be wasted in chasing rainbows. 

The problem is that this is nothing more than a list of names. To take a random example: there are more than 70 companies in the form ‘Zest***’. Would disgruntled employees know which is which? HMRC has said that future lists will contain more information, such as company reference number and amounts claimed, so the next iterations should be more useful.  

One final thought. Where might this transparency lead to? Might we see publication of names of businesses that have claimed, say, research and development tax credits? Coronavirus has overturned many of our assumptions about the tax system. Will one of its long-term effects be a move towards the release of more data about the tax affairs of individual taxpayers and businesses? I wouldn’t rule it out.

If you do one thing...

Consider responding to the Office of Tax Simplification’s latest call for evidence ( Third party data provision could have a significant impact on the work of those who prepare personal tax returns.

Issue: 4778 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
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