The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) is a support to maintaining employment during the public health restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the scheme has provided support to almost 59,000 employers in respect 568,000 employees totalling €1.9 billion. Approximately 410,000 employees are currently in receipt of the subsidy.
The Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 places the administration of the TWSS under the care and management of Revenue, which includes ensuring that this very significant investment of public funds is properly allocated to eligible employers and employees. In the exercise of this important role, Revenue is conducting a programme of compliance checks on all employers availing of the scheme to confirm that they meet the eligibility criteria and crucially that employees are receiving the correct amount of subsidy due to them.
In order to verify eligibility, Revenue is asking employers to summarise the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on their business, the basis on which they reasonably anticipated a reduction of 25% or more in their turnover in Quarter two of this year, and whether the expected level of reduction actually occurred. In order to ensure that employees are being fairly treated and TWSS funds are being paid out as intended, Revenue is also seeking a sample of payslips from each employer. It is important to note that employers are obliged to include the amount of subsidy paid on each employee’s payslip.
Regarding the Deputy’s specific concerns, Revenue has assured me that it is fully aware of the difficulties that many businesses are currently experiencing due to the pandemic and will minimise any administrative burden arising from the compliance checks to the greatest extent possible, including issuing the compliance notifications on a staggered basis over the next few months. For many employers, a simple statement that due to the nature of their business, they were required to cease trading for a significant part of Quarter two is sufficient to confirm eligibility. Where any employer genuinely cannot provide the required documentation or payslip copies within the five days due to staffing shortages, working from home arrangements or any other difficulty, Revenue will provide the additional time needed if the business makes contact and advises of when the documentation will be provided.
Revenue has advised me that where a business had a reasonable basis for projecting a minimum 25% decrease in turnover, but ultimately suffered a lesser reduction in trade, it will require that employer to exit the scheme on a prospective basis rather than suffer any retrospective impact. However, where a business was clearly not eligible for the scheme or failed to pay the correct level of subsidy to its employees, or abused the scheme in any other way, there will be a requirement to repay the funds received. Any identified abuse of the TWSS will also lead to a more in-depth examination of the employer’s overall tax position.
Finally, Revenue has advised me that it has issued just over 4,000 compliance notifications to-date and many of these employers have already provided prompt and satisfactory responses. Some of the employers have provided commendations in relation to the speed of development of the TWSS and in respect of Revenue's role in ensuring such a vital liquidity support is being properly applied.