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Image caption: Chancellor Rishi Sunak described the payback as “heartening”

Businesses have handed back more than £1 billion claimed through the Government’s furlough scheme, the Treasury has said.

HMRC said £1.3 billion had been returned by firms to the government since July 2020 because the funds had been over claimed or they no longer needed the cash.

The furlough scheme is due to come to finish at the end of this month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said thanks to the scheme “nearly two million fewer people are now expected to be out of work in the UK than previously feared”.

He added: “With our recovery under way it is heartening to see that £1.3 billion in furlough grants have been returned as the economy recovers.”

It is estimated the scheme will have cost the government £70 billion when it concludes on 30 September – with nearly nine million people being supported at the height of the pandemic last year.

“HMRC and the National Audit Office estimate between 5% and 10% of the total furlough money claimed could represent over claims,” warned Nigel Morris, employment tax director at MHA.

“The advice to all businesses, as the scheme ends, must be to review all their furlough claims and ensure that if they have overclaimed, they make arrangements to pay HMRC back as soon as possible.

“This should help to avoid interest and penalties.”

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