by Darwin Friend, policy analyst at the TaxPayers' Alliance
Today the National Audit Office released a report on the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, revealing that a massive £4.9 billion from the scheme was accessed fraudulently. That’s more than you’d need to take a penny off income tax.
But it’s even worse than that. Of this, the government has set a target to recoup just £6 million. That’s just 0.1 per cent of the total amount of taxpayers’ money handed out to those who fiddled the system. Such a low target is almost unbelievable and will disgust taxpayers who stuck to the rules during the pandemic but are now left to foot the bill for fraud.
Let’s remember too that this £4.9 billion is only part of the total £17 billion estimated to be lost from unpaid business loans, as any losses were guaranteed to be covered by taxpayers - that’s 36 per cent of the entire scheme.
As one of many covid schemes set up by the government, this will likely be just the tip of the iceberg. Furlough was another programme backed by taxpayers and targeted by fraudsters.
At the time we supported the use of this scheme as a means of businesses to easily access finance during the pandemic, but recommended amending the Fraud Act 2006 to put in place protection for taxpayers. People who wrongly pocketed taxpayers’ cash should be properly punished (including with prison) and the money recouped. Taxpayers deserve a lot more than 0.1 per cent of their money back.