A Perthshire hotel owner forced the taxman into a dramatic U-turn on furlough payments after fearing his staff would be left without wages for the Christmas period.
Louis Finch, who runs the Alyth Hotel, was told he was not eligible for the scheme after missing a deadline, despite HMRC guaranteeing him that his business would receive the benefit.
The hotelier had already paid out thousands of pounds to employees, expecting the money to be returned by the government through the Covid-19 furlough payment.
His 10 staff members, some of who live in the hotel, faced homelessness and a Christmas without any income after the taxman denied their application last week.
However following pressure from The Courier and the hotel’s accountant, HMRC has now agreed to put the hotel back on the furlough scheme until March.
Louis missed the deadline due to ongoing talks with the tax collector over how to secure a furlough payment for a worker who didn’t have a national insurance number.
The organisation guaranteed his staff would be covered despite the lateness of the application.
When The Courier contacted HMRC they admitted to making the promise and apologised.
A spokesperson said: “The Alyth Hotel was provided incorrect advice and therefore HMRC has apologised and agreed to accept the businesses’ CJRS claim.
“When we make a mistake, we apologise and put matters right at the earliest opportunity.”
Louis said he wouldn’t have been able to open back up after lockdown without the reprieve, and this would have left some of his employees without a home.
“We would massively struggle,” he said,
“My business account is down to hundreds and to get stock is going to cost me thousands.
“I’m struggling to see how I can open up again.
“We have two residents and one of them has a four-year-old girl.”
Stuart McTaggart, Louis’ partner and an employee at the hotel, said the worry caused by HMRC had caused his health to rapidly deteriorate.
He has been looking after his five nieces and nephews following a family tragedy earlier this year and believed he would be unable to provide a Christmas for his loved ones.
“It’s been a hard 10 months for everyone,” Stuart said.
“We were financially dependent on this to get through winter. What was I going to say to them (his nieces and nephews) on Christmas?
“The next step for me is the foodbank.”
While Stuart said he was relieved to see HMRC backtrack on the decision, he believes other businesses need to know that rejected claims are worth pursuing.
He said: “They would be quick enough to chase you up for a bill, so you shouldn’t just lie down and accept their decision.”
Hotel workers in Pitlochry were made homeless earlier this month with Fisher’s claiming they couldn’t keep employees even with the furlough scheme.