Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme portal – A week on from launch FAQ

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The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) portal went live in the early hours of Monday 20 April 2020, and it has been working well, with no major issues reported in the service.

As at 23 April over 512,000 claims had been submitted to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), with a value of £4.5 billion and covering 3.8 million employees.

However, additional guidance issued on Friday 17 April contained some significant changes. This included the use of calendar days rather than working days to calculate the reference salary for the scheme, which has caused some headaches for those running payrolls and claiming the grants.

Below, we answer a selection of some of the most common questions we have received on the CJRS portal

How do I register for PAYE online to make a CJRS claim?

To access the system on you will need to have:

  • A government Gateway ID and password; and
  • An active PAYE enrolment.

If you do not have these, you can register for them here.

Can my payroll agent make a claim on my behalf?

If you have an agent that has authorisation to act for you in relation to PAYE matters online, they can make a claim for CJRS on your behalf. If an agent is making the claim for you, you will need to tell them which bank account you want the funds to be paid into.

As an agent, how do I know if I have the correct authorisation to be able to make a claim for my client?

If an agent is unsure of the level of authorisation they have for an existing employer PAYE client, they should check the list of payroll clients in their agent portal. If the client is listed as ‘confirmed’ they can make CJRS applications on their client’s behalf. If they are not listed, or listed as ‘limited authorisation’, the agent cannot currently claim on behalf of the client.

The portal sometime shows ‘limited authorisation’ when full authorisation is in place. Agents may wish to check with HMRC if they think the authorisation information on the portal is incorrect.

How do I authorise my agent to make a claim?

The quickest route to authorise your agent is for you to initiate the authorisation process from your business tax account.

To be able to do this there are certain prerequisites:

  • You must have set up a business tax account and have enrolled for PAYE online for employers.
  • Your agent must give you their ‘agent identifier’.
  • The agent can obtain their ‘agent identifier’ by signing in to their agent portal using the credentials they use for payroll clients. On the homepage, they must select ‘authorise client’ from the left-hand main menu. The appropriate identifier will appear on the next screen under the heading ‘agent identifier’

You must then follow the following steps:

  • Sign into your business tax account;
  • Select ‘manage account’;
  • Select ‘add, view or change tax agent’ option under the heading ‘tax agents’;
  • Select ‘PAYE for employers’;
  • Click ‘continue’ to get to the ‘manage who can access your taxes and schemes’ page;
  • Click the ‘add an agent’ link next to the relevant service (PAYE in this instance);
  • Enter the agent identifier provided by the agent (described on this screen as the ‘agents government gateway ID’) and click continue;
  • Click on ‘add agent’ to confirm they want to add the selected agent; and
  • You will receive on-screen confirmation the agent has been added.

What information is needed to make a claim?

  • The number of employees being furloughed;
  • The dates employees have been furloughed to and from;
  • Details of employees – the name and National Insurance number of each furloughed employees;
  • Your employer PAYE scheme reference number;
  • Your Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference, Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference or Company Registration Number as appropriate for your entity;
  • Your UK bank account details;
  • Your organisation’s registered name; and
  • Your organisation’s address.

You should have all of the above to hand before making the claim.

What elements can I claim for as wages?

The amount you should use when calculating 80% of your employees’ wages is all of the regular payments you are obliged to make, including:

  • Regular wages you pay to employees (gross not net pay);
  • Non-discretionary overtime;
  • Non-discretionary fees;
  • Non-discretionary commission payments; and
  • Piece rate payments.

You cannot include:

  • Payments made at the discretion of the employer or a client, where the employer or client was under no contractual obligation to pay, including tips, discretionary bonuses and discretionary commission payments;
  • Non-cash payments; and
  • Non-monetary benefits, like benefits in kind (such as a company car) and salary sacrifice schemes (including pension contributions) that reduce an employees’ taxable pay.

Who is eligible to be claimed for under the CJRS?

All employees where an RTI submission has been made for them before 19 March 2020.

This includes employees who are full-time/part-time, flexible or zero hours, agency workers, directors (only for the amount of their income paid through PAYE, not any dividends received), domestic staff, those made redundant on or after 28 February 2020 and rehired, and foreign nationals.

Full information can be found here.

How do I submit my information for the employees?

Where you have under 100 employees:

  • You need to enter each employee name and National Insurance number; and
  • You will need to confirm the total amount of the claim – split into the total wage amount to be paid to furloughed employees and the total pension and National Insurance.

Where you have over 100 employees, in addition to the above you will need to confirm the:

  • Claim amount per furloughed employee;
  • Claim period for each furloughed employee; and
  • You will also need to upload the claim information in one of the following formats: XLS, XLSX, CSV, or ODP

We have nearly 200 employees that have been furloughed, split across three PAYE references. Can we still submit a spreadsheet?

No. HMRC will only accept an uploaded file where each PAYE reference has over 100 employees. Where there are under 100, each employee will need to be entered manually.

Can I save a claim in progress?

No. In addition, there is a 30-minute time limit to complete the claim, hence why you need to ensure you have all of the required information to hand before you start the claim process. Where employers have just under 100 employees, they may encounter some timing issues, as their names and National Insurance numbers must be manually entered individually.

What about workers under 16, with no National Insurance number?

Where an employer has fewer than 100 furloughed employees but has one or more without a National Insurance number, they should contact the HMRC COVID-19 Helpline on 0800 024 1222. They can process the claim over the phone.

Where an employer has 100 or more furloughed employees, they must instead provide a payroll or employee reference number for any employee without a National Insurance number in their file upload.

How do I calculate a claim?

For most employers with full-time or part-time employees on a set salary, you will need to work out the following for the claim period:

  • The total amount being paid to furloughed employees (you can claim for 80% of your employee’s wages – up to a maximum of £2,500 a month per employee);
  • The total employer National Insurance contributions (NICs); and
  • The total employer pension contributions (up to 3%).

HMRC has a calculator tool that may assist in calculating the claim for regularly paid workers. At the time of publication, this tool doesn’t assist for those with variable pay, but an update from HMRC is expected shortly.

HMRC’s step-by-step CJRS guide contains the following example of how to calculate the grant for gross pay:

The employee was paid £2,400 in gross salary for February, the last full monthly pay period before 19 March 2020. 21 March to 31 March is 11 days. The reference salary for the part of March in which the worker is furloughed is: £2,400 divided by 31 days in March is £77.42, and £77.42 multiplied by 11 days of furlough is £851.62

Smith Ltd can claim 80% of this amount, up to the ‘maximum amount’ for the time on furlough in March: 80% of £851.62 is £681.30.

The maximum amount test is: Monthly maximum of £2,500 divided by 31 days in March = £80.65 £80.65 x 11 days of furlough = £887.15

Smith Ltd claims the lower amount, £681.30, for the employee’s gross pay in March.

How do I calculate the employer’s NIC element of the CJRS claim?

Following on from the above example, the employee’s gross pay at the end of the month is made up of £1,548.40 of salary funded by Smith Ltd, for 1 to 20 March (20 days), and £681.30 of pay funded by CJRS for the remaining 11 days of March.

The employer’s NICs due on the total gross pay of £2,229.70 is £208.48.

To calculate the daily employer’s NIC amount: £208.48 divided by 31 days in March = £6.73

The daily employer’s NIC amount of £6.73, is then multiplied by 11 furlough days = £74.03

Smith Ltd claims £74.03 for employer NIC’s due on the employee’s March pay.

How do I calculate the pension contribution element of the CJRS claim?

The monthly lower level of qualifying earnings of £512 (for March 2020, £520 from April 2020 onwards) is apportioned based on the number of days in the month to the qualifying furlough days. This equates to £16.52 per day (for March 2020).

So, using one of HMRC’s examples:

There are 11 days furlough for an employee and their furlough pay is £681.30. £16.52 multiplied by 11 days is £181.72. The minimum level of auto-enrolment pension contributions on the £681.30 furlough pay is therefore (£681.30 – £181.72) x 3% = £14.99.

How often can I claim under the CJRS?

You can claim once per pay period, so each week/month depending on when you pay your staff.

There must be a minimum period of three weeks for an employee to be on furlough to be able to claim for them. You can rotate staff and staff can be furloughed more than once.

How quickly will I receive my grant once claimed?

HMRC has stated that it will process all claims within six working days, so any claims made by 22 April 2020 will be paid by 30 April 2020.

Can I amend an earlier claim?

At present there isn’t any option to amend a claim. We are awaiting guidance of whether adjustments can be made in future claim periods.

Can I claim in advance of the end of the pay period?

You can claim up to 14 days in advance.

What happens after the claim?

If you don’t take a screen shot of your reference number after making the claim then you have no way of querying anything as it disappears and there is no automatic confirmation email.

HMRC has stated that it reserves the right to audit CJRS claims made. Therefore, it is important to retain evidence of the employee agreeing to the furlough in writing, along with records of any policies you bring in relating to not working during furlough leave etc. And you will need to keep records for five years.

HMRC has also recently launched a campaign for employees to report their employer where they suspect the scheme is being abused, where, for example, payments are not passed onto employees, or where employees are being requested to work during furlough leave.