Brass tax - August 2020

Jul 30, 2020

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme is ever evolving in the face of uncertainty, writes Maud Clear.

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was introduced on 26 March 2020. Looking back 20 weeks on, in a world turned upside down by COVID-19, it is fair to say that the Scheme has evolved since its inception. With many businesses facing an uncertain road to recovery, the July Jobs Stimulus package was the next eagerly awaited phase in this evolutionary process.

Revenue offered its services to the Department of Finance to pay out the subsidy through real-time reporting tools – an extraordinary move from an institution whose function is to collect tax.

While the initial assessment in establishing eligibility was a significant exercise for many employers, Revenue provided consistency and support in their operation of the Scheme.

That is until a programme of compliance checks was announced on 23 June for all employers availing of the Scheme. This was an unforeseen turn in the Scheme’s evolution, particularly when Revenue issued guidance on 20 April indicating: “We may in the future, based on risk criteria, review eligibility”.

Such a broad stroke approach and the requirement for a response within five days have many employers questioning what is yet to come in the operation of the Scheme.

Chartered Accountants Ireland, under the auspices of the CCAB-I, sought an extension to this response time. In response, Revenue may now allow for an extension of the five days where an employer contacts them to explain their difficulty in returning a response within the required timeframe.

The announcement of an extension to the TWSS until the end of August came with a warning from the Minister for Finance that “this support cannot last forever”. As the challenges facing employers in re-opening continue to mount, assurance has since been provided by the Minister that the Scheme will not come to “an abrupt end”.  

Most employers need the support of the TWSS to get back on their feet. Clarity on how they will get it, and for how long, will be a determining factor in their recovery. It is hoped that the ‘July Jobs’ stimulus package will provide that certainty.

Maud Clear is Tax Manager at Chartered Accountants Ireland.