Losing Antivirus contributions owing to formal errors
The Antivirus Programme is considered one of the most successful and best performing support programmes that the government introduced during the pandemic. According to statistics published by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs at the end of December, the number of supported companies exceeded 65 thousand and the total amount of provided support amounted to almost CZK 25 billion. However, some employers have ascertained that they will have to refund the aid already received under the programme even though they did not abuse the programme in any way and paid all relevant payments and mandatory premiums within the statutory deadlines.
Under the Antivirus Programme, contributions to employers are provided as a refund of payroll expenses that have already been incurred, i.e. employers must first pay wage compensation to their employees and settle all relevant mandatory premiums, and only then they are entitled to submit their statement of payroll expenses, based on which contributions under the Antivirus Programme are paid.
Employers confirm that they have paid wage compensations and mandatory premiums before filing the statements via affidavits attached to the statements.
Simultaneously, in agreements on the provision of contributions under the Antivirus Programme concluded between employers and the Labour Office, the employers undertake to refund monthly contributions under the programme if wage compensations and mandatory premiums are not settled before the Labour Office provides the contributions under the programme for the appropriate month.
During inspections of the adherence to the Antivirus Programme’s conditions, labour offices ascertained that some employers had received contributions under the programme earlier than they had actually paid the mandatory premiums. In accordance with the Antivirus Programme’s conditions and the above agreement between the employers and the Labour Office, this means that some employers will have to return the contributions received for a particular month despite having settled their mandatory payments within their common deadlines.
In early December, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs issued a press release on the subject, disallowing the possibility of a waiver of the duty to refund the contribution even in cases where the mandatory premiums were paid only a few days after the contribution under the programme was paid out. We understand that, according to the ministry, the refund of contributions may not be waived even if under standard circumstances the contributions would have been paid in a timely manner. In its press release, the ministry also points out that if the employer does not return the contribution when asked to do so, this will be regarded as a breach of budgetary discipline that will be resolved by the tax authority with local jurisdiction.
While a discussion is definitely warranted about whether the above procedure is excessively formalistic or whether the duty to refund the contributions received can be waived after all, especially in cases where mandatory premiums would have been settled in a timely manner under standard circumstances and where these have already been paid at the time of an inspection, we nonetheless cannot but recommend that all conditions for drawing any kind of subsidy or support be always carefully examined and adhered to.