More than 84,700 food and drink establishments took part in the Eat Out to Help Out (EOTHO) scheme, according to the Treasury’s latest figures.
This resulted in 130,000 claims at the end of the scheme and is estimated to have cost the Treasury around £522 million.
The claims system was set up quickly by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), which did its best to prevent and address potential fraud.
However, HMRC now has announced that it is beginning post-payment compliance checks to recover money paid out incorrectly to businesses.
It is understood to be writing to around 4,000 businesses who it believes may have incorrectly claimed for the scheme.
These companies are being asked to check their claims are correct and could be asked to repay any money they weren’t eligible for.
As part of this check, some claimants are being asked to provide evidence of eligibility and their EOTHO calculations.
Claimants are being given just 60 days to respond to the letter before HMRC begins a formal compliance check, which could include having to pay statutory interest and penalties.
However, anyone who voluntarily repays any overpaid EOTHO payments, will not be charged a penalty. To report an overpayment, a claimant will need to complete an online disclosure form so that HMRC can calculate the amount that is owed.
If a business has been contacted but believes its EOTHO claims were correct they still need to contact HMRC in the allotted time or they may face a formal compliance check.