Firms are urged to prepare for inspections into their coronavirus support grants, loans and furlough payments.
Chartered accountants and business advisers robinson+co say businesses need to make sure they are not caught out by audits conducted by HMRC.
Peter Ellwood, managing partner at robinson+co – which has offices in Workington, Whitehaven and Gosforth – says he believes some businesses are in for a shock.
He said: “Undoubtedly some businesses will have been claiming for support that they weren’t entitled to. In some cases, this will be intentional, but in others it will purely be through honest mistakes made at a time when they were under extreme pressure.”
Last year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak gave HMRC new powers to investigate businesses believed to have made false claims for furlough or grant payments.
In the case of furlough, HMRC is able to reclaim 100 per cent of any funds incorrectly or fraudulently claimed.
Examples of abuse of the furlough scheme include backdating claims, asking furloughed staff to continue work, claiming for sick or ex-employees, and failing to pass the full amount onto workers.
Mr Ellwood added: “Throughout the pandemic we’ve been working with our clients to ensure they access all the help they can in the correct way to ensure they avoid any penalties or repayments. However, we’re also on hand to help any businesses that are being investigated by HMRC.”