There is no doubt that for the vast majority of us, the last four months have been extraordinary. Only those who survived the Second World War are likely to have experienced anything like this before. Those of us who are old enough to remember the “Three-Day Week” in the early 1970s will remember a period of disruption, but shops and schools stayed open throughout at least for part of each week.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of how the Government have dealt with the virus in England (and those who follow me on Twitter know my views), there is little doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has brought out the best in many but also sadly the worse in some.
All those who have worked through the crisis to keep the country and its citizens alive need to feel the full force of our gratitude, not just by clapping on a Thursday night but also at the ballot box if asked to support a tax increase to generate an increase in their pay. Let’s not also forget the business owners and entrepreneurs who have used all of their ingenuity, stamina and savings to adapt their businesses so that we have an economy to return to when (or perhaps if) the lockdown fully comes to an end.
Alongside those individuals though, there are of course those who have done little to help and perhaps caused a great deal of harm.
…and the villains
Some have ignored lockdown and gone about their business without a second thought for their own health or more importantly the health of others. Last week, I needed to take a “Covid-secure” taxi to pick up my car after servicing. Inevitably, I asked the taxi driver if he had been busy during the period. “Never busier” he said. Business had been about 40% up and this was because most people hadn’t been working and therefore had more time to spend with their friends. Most of his fares hadn’t been taking health workers to hospital, or delivering goods, but taking people to their friends’ houses to socialise. Thanks for thinking of the rest of us!
Of course, there have been quite a number of employers who have gratefully taken support from the Government via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme whilst at the same time, keeping their employees’ noses fixed firmly to the grindstone. Those people really are the lowest of the low, taking taxpayers’ money to feather their own nests whilst doing little to prevent the spread of the virus.
This is white-collar crime at its most thoughtless and, to my view, goes far beyond what could be regarded as tax avoidance. It does involve tax in one sense in that the mechanism for claiming the support involves HMRC but let no-one be under any doubt that making claims for CJRS support without furloughing employees isn’t “conning the taxman”. It isn’t “tax planning”, and it can’t be justified by saying “I have paid money into the system in the past, now it’s my turn to get some out”. It’s simply fraud.
When planning this article, I wanted to examine the motivations behind making claims of this sort but, in truth, I really don’t care. In the same way that I really don’t care about the motivations of someone who mugs an elderly lady and robs them of their jewellery – I’m simply interested in the perpetrator feeling the full force of the law. To me the fraudulent CJRS claimant has just mugged all of us when we are all at our most vulnerable and they deserve everything that I hope is coming to them.