Mazars accountancy firm repays £1m UK furlough cash

Mazars, a large UK accountancy firm, has repaid more than £1m in cash claimed from the government for furloughed workers, amid scrutiny of payments to accounting partners after firms received government coronavirus support.

The UK’s ninth-biggest accountant paid back £1.1m claimed under the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS), which supported 80% of the wages of furloughed employees up to a limit of £2,500 a month. Mazars made the repayment on Monday.

The government brought in the scheme to prevent a huge wave of redundancies when the UK’s first lockdown forced millions of people to stop working. The government had started to reduce the scheme’s generosity from August onwards, but abruptly extended it in November when it became clear that tougher restrictions to contain a second wave of virus would threaten jobs over the winter.

However, some firms, including Mazars, have repaid money previously claimed after it became clear they were not as badly affected as initially thought.

BDO, the fifth biggest UK accountant and a rival of Mazars, on Sunday confirmed that it would pay back £4.1m to the government after criticism of large payments given to partners. Before the U-turn, BDO had refused to pay back the support, despite paying its 264 partners an average of £518,000 each. In total the company paid its partners £137m.

The £1.1m that Mazars claimed applied to 349 employees furloughed at the start of the scheme during April and May. Staff were also furloughed during June and July, but the firm did not claim any money for that period, a spokesman said.

Mazars has more than 40,000 staff across 91 countries. In the UK it has approximately 130 partners and more than 2,250 employees.

The firm distributed profits of £33m in the year to August to its UK partners, an average of more than £250,000 to each partner.

Mazars’ spokesman said: “Mazars used the CJRS scheme – which ran to October this year – for four months between April and July, with up to 349 people across the firm affected.

“However the firm only claimed for the first two months, April and May. The total amount claimed for those two months was £1.1m. Mazars has repaid the money to the government.”

The UK’s big four accountants, PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG, did not furlough staff. Mazars’ repayment was first reported by Financial News.