HMRC is beginning to write to selected Eat Out to Help Out (EOHO) claimants to ask them to check their claims under the scheme.

The EOHO scheme saw more than 84,000 food and drink establishments take part and offer a 50% discount on eligible purchases on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during August 2020.

HMRC set up a system to pay restaurants within five working days. Controls were built into the system to protect public money, which included limiting eligibility to food businesses registered with the relevant local authority by 7 July 2020.

Post-payment compliance checks to recover money paid out incorrectly are now set to begin, with HMRC writing to some 4,000 businesses where records suggest they may have made an incorrect claim and asking them to check their claims are correct.

Claimants have 60 days to respond to the letter or HMRC may start a formal compliance check, which could lead to statutory interest payments and penalties.

Some claimants may be asked to provide evidence of eligibility and their EOTHO calculations.

HMRC said it follows a similar approach it has taken to post-payment compliance for the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

Business will be told they may need to repay some or all of the payments you have received.

This is because they may have claimed for more EOHO payments than entitled to, based on the information about the business, the amounts claimed and the data held about the payments received by credit and debit card.

Other flags include if one or more claims do not appear to be consistent with other EOHO claims you have made, or if a business has not met the conditions to claim or receive payments.

Businesses will be given the chance to review their records, and if they make a disclosure, will not be charged a penalty for any errors. 

The letter states: “We understand mistakes happen, particularly in these challenging times. This means we will not look for innocent errors and small mistakes for compliance action.”