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Hundreds left baffled after being rejected by HMRC's self-employed support scheme tool

Hundreds left baffled after being rejected by HMRC's self-employed support scheme tool

Hundreds of people have told MoneySavingExpert.com that they have been rejected by HM Revenue & Customs' eligibility tool for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), despite believing they fit the eligibility criteria.

The tool has told many people that they're not eligible for any help via SEISS, one of the Government's coronavirus support schemes, raising concerns that many people who thought they would be covered would now feel disheartened and not knowing what to do.

Complaints have flooded in over the past 24 hours – including from people whose income is well below the £50,000 earnings threshold. HMRC has told MoneySavingExpert that the tool is working accurately.

For more information on coronavirus help if you're self-employed, see our Coronavirus Self-Employed & Small Limited Company Help.

Martin: 'The tool is meant to reassure people'

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "The HMRC eligibility tool is meant to be there to give people peace of mind that they will be getting their money.  

"For those who pass through it does just that, and locks in a date on which they can apply. Yet many are surprised to find that it's doing the opposite. For some this is managing expectations, but some users are arguing there are glitches and others simply don't understand why they're not eligible. That can be extremely disheartening and even damaging for people's mental health.

"HMRC says the system is working well and these aren't glitches, so we are currently assessing where this sits. We understand the revenue has built this mechanism at speed, but it's important to balance that with realising quite how desperate people are for the support, so small knockbacks can have big impacts. We will continue to compile cases and put our findings to HMRC to try to help it improve the system."

What is the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme? 

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, or SEISS, is a measure designed to help self-employed people who have been adversely affected by coronavirus. The scheme consists of grants that will cover eligible people's wages worth up to 80% of their profits, capped at £2,500 a month.

Unlike furlough (the coronavirus support scheme for employed workers), SEISS is yet to open to applications. HMRC has said it will begin contacting eligible self-employed workers this week, and if it does, it'll give you a time and date to apply for the grants.

Why are people complaining about the eligibility tool?

HMRC's eligibility tool is designed to give you an indication of whether you will be eligible for SEISS. 

But many people have reported being turned down by the tool, despite being convinced that they fit the criteria. One person complained that while they had been accepted, their partner had been turned down by the tool, even though they have almost identical circumstances. Another person reported being turned down, but on a second attempt was accepted.

Others said they were confused as to why the tool had deemed them ineligible for state help when their average earnings were well below £50,000 a year.

HMRC said it was confident that the eligibility tool was working well.

An HMRC spokesperson said: "We encourage people worried about their eligibility to review our guidance, speak with their accountant if they have one or to access our help services, including webinars and webchat.

"There is also wide-ranging Government support available for those who can't use SEISS, such as 'bounce back loans', tax deferrals and universal credit.

"Over the coming days, we're writing to around three-and-a-half million people who we think are eligible for this scheme – when they receive their email, text or letter they can go through our checker to confirm their eligibility and find out when to apply."