Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Questions (177, 207)

David Cullinane

Question:

177. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Finance if the closing date for employment wage subsidy scheme applications will be extended considering the recent announcement of the scheme being extended into 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44659/21]

View answer

Mary Butler

Question:

207. Deputy Mary Butler asked the Minister for Finance if he will address the concerns raised in correspondence regarding the EWSS (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45116/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 207 together.

Section 28B of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 provides for the EWSS which is an economy-wide enterprise support for eligible businesses in respect of eligible employees. The Finance (Covid-19 and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2021, signed into law on 19 July, provides for the extension of EWSS to 31 December 2021, ensuring that the scheme continues to provide ongoing and necessary employment support for eligible businesses as the economy returns to a full re-opening.

For Q3 2021, the Government has decided to broadly maintain the status quo for EWSS, including the enhanced rates of support, with a modification to widen eligibility, and maintaining the reduced rate of Employers’ PRSI of 0.5%.

Decisions in relation to the configuration of the EWSS in Q4 2021 regarding its various aspects will be addressed shortly. Also, no formal decisions have been taken by Government in relation to future of the scheme beyond the end of Q4, 2021.

The Finance (Covid-19 and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2021 provides that for employers to be eligible for the EWSS, they must be able to demonstrate that their business will experience a 30% reduction in turnover or customer orders for the calendar year 2021 compared to the calendar year 2019 and that this disruption to normal business is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As regards the concern around a closing date for applications of 15th August, I wish to clarify that no such end-date exists or is provided for in the legislation. However, I should point out that there is a requirement that immediately at the end of each month, from the introduction of the scheme in August 2020 onwards, each employer availing of the scheme must carry out a self-review of its business circumstances and if it is manifest to the employer that it no longer meets the eligibility test for qualification for the scheme, then the employer must immediately cease claiming wage subsidy payments.

To assist employers in conducting a monthly review of its continuing eligibility for the scheme, Revenue is providing an EWSS Eligibility Review Form through its Revenue Online Service (ROS). From 21 July 2021, completing and submitting an EWSS Eligibility Review Form to Revenue will be necessary to avail of EWSS supports, with details of an employer’s monthly eligibility review check to be submitted by the 15th of the following month. For example, the eligibility review undertaken on the last day of September will need to be completed and submitted to Revenue by 15 October.

Timely submission of the form will provide assurance to both employers and Revenue that subsequent EWSS claims are appropriate and in line with the terms of the scheme. This, together with Revenue’s EWSS ongoing real-time compliance program, will reduce the possibility of employers, inadvertently or incorrectly, claiming EWSS amounts to which they are not entitled and having to subsequently repay those amounts to Revenue.

Failure to complete and submit the EWSS Eligibility Review Form that confirms the requisite reduction and related declaration will result in suspension of payment of EWSS claims. Where a business who has not completed and submitted the Form within the required timeframe subsequently does so, and is eligible for the scheme, suspended payments will be released and paid.

Given the scale of resources being disbursed from Exchequer funds under the EWSS, I consider that the eligibility review is the minimum level of due diligence required of employers and Revenue has sought to make the process as user-friendly as possible.

Finally, employers must have a tax clearance certificate to be eligible to join the EWSS and must continue to meet the requirements for tax clearance for the duration of the scheme.