Accountants warn of massive fraud with coronavirus support measures
The authorities have received multiple reports of fraud committed with coronavirus support measures. But these reports are just the tip of the iceberg, accountants warn. The support measures are so tempting that it is almost impossible that businesses won't take advantage of it, they said to NOS.
There have been some reports of fraud with the TOZO scheme for self employed persons and the TOGS allowance for fixed costs, according to the broadcaster. But the real problem, accountants fear, is the NOW regulation, which compensates up to 90 percent of businesses' wage costs if they have a loss of turnover. This is by far the measure with the most money involved. A total of 8.7 billion euros in subsidies have been requested from the NOW regulation, of which 4.5 billion euros paid out so far.
Benefits agency UWV said that it received reports of suspicious activities around 21 of the total 144 thousand NOW applications. This involves things like employers deferring invoices so that they make less turnover on paper. These reports are under investigation.
"Those 21 reports are the tip of the iceberg," Antoinette Dijkhuizen, founder of accountancy firm 4you and board member of accountancy association NBA, said to the broadcaster. "Entrepreneurs are always pushing the boundaries, whether it be about taxes or this regulation."
Pieter Vos of accountancy firm Kop of Munt told NOS that the firm received calls from companies asking whether they can send invoices later so that they are eligible for the subsidy. "An entrepreneur would be almost crazy not to ask that, not to go to the edges of the scheme," he said.
Rob Bergmans of accounting practice Deloitte called fraud an "inherent risk" to such an emergency measure. "If companies ask us if that is possible, then of course we say it is not allowed. But I cannot exclude that companies try it anyway."
Agness Koops-Aukes of accountancy firm PwC did not want to say whether any of their clients are pushing the boundaries of what is allowed. "However, the design of the scheme makes it very difficult for us as accountants to remove all errors and risks of fraud."
The government designed the NOW regulation so it is easy to apply for, with the goal of helping struggling companies as quickly as possible. A proper check of wether involved companies were really eligible will only be done afterwards - likely in October when the second round of support comes to an end, the UWV said to NOS.
When the NOW regulation was announced in March, Minister Wouter Koolmees of Economic Affairs called on entrepreneurs not to abuse the scheme.