Iceland boss hits back at HMRC over minimum wage probe

The boss of Iceland has hit back at HMRC for “harassing” the business in regards to a previous minimum wage tax dispute amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Times, Sir Malcom Walker, who founded the businesses over 50 years ago, said in a letter that HMRC should be “ashamed” by the fact it is dedicating so much time on trying to gather information from his business instead of helping businesses access furlough payments.

Earlier this year, Iceland was fined £21m by HMRC for breaching minimum wage rules through its Christmas Club employee scheme which allowed employees to set aside money from their wages to be accessed at a later date. However HMRC said that despite the scheme being voluntary, pay had technically fallen below the legal requirement.

The Times revealed that in the past month, HMRC has asked for payslips and further details.
Walker added that the business currently has around 3,000 employees off sick on full pay and a further 1,200 employees who are deemed as vulnerable.

An HMRC spokesman told the paper: “We don’t discuss identifiable businesses. We understand that businesses are facing unprecedented challenges.

“Many of our minimum wage teams are working to deliver the vital support schemes the government has put in place. HMRC’s priority is to support employers and workers during this time.”

In an updated response sent to Retail Sector, Sir Malcolm Walker said: “My letter to HMRC reflects my extreme frustration that we are still being pestered by HMRC to provide a mass of information on employees who have participated in our Christmas Club over several years, at a time when our head office is operating with a skeleton staff and all our people are focused on continuing to serve our customers and feed the nation in the face of the huge challenge of Covid-19.

“This ludicrous investigation is a complete waste of time and money for both us and the taxpayer, and the Government needs to act to end it now.’

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