Expected to recover more than £19.5 million from tax dodgers, the taskforces will target those who do not pay the right amount of tax in:
- The legal profession in London
- Grocery and retail in South and North Wales, the North West and the South West
- Hair and beauty in the North East
- Restaurants in the South East and Solent
- The motor trade in Scotland
Taskforces are specialist teams that undertake intensive bursts of activity in specific high risk trade sectors and locations in the UK. The teams will visit traders to examine their records and carry out other investigations. HMRC has launched 30 taskforces since May 2011.
Taskforces are a result of the Government’s £917 million spending review investment to tackle tax evasion, avoidance and fraud from 2011/12, which aims to raise an additional £7 billion each year by 2014/15.
Compliance activity through taskforces is 1:1 and targets the highest-risk cases in a particular sector and location, typically focusing on groups of up to around 300 customers.
HMRC’s Mike Eland, Director General Enforcement and Compliance, said: “These taskforces bring together specialists from across HMRC to find people who are not paying what they should. If you have paid all your taxes you have nothing to worry about. But for those deliberately evading tax, be warned that HMRC is coming after you.
“This is not an empty threat - HMRC can and will track you down if you choose to break the rules. We are on target to collect more than £50 million as a result of taskforces launched in 2011/12.”
These new taskforces are an indication of how much HMRC is stepping up its crackdown on non-compliance. Taskforces are usually reserved for areas where there is known practise of evasion. Also the latest move brings about the first task force to target a professional group, the legal world. In the past, professions such as doctors, the medical world, and education specialists have been approached through a disclosure regime giving them the opportunity to contact HMRC to put their tax affairs in order within a specific time frame.
Gary Ashford, who represents the Chartered Institute of Taxation on HMRC’s Compliance Reform Forum, said: “The range of groups targeted in this latest announcement shows how widely HMRC are casting their net – from high street barbers to High Court barristers.
“The use of a taskforce tells us that HMRC has evidence of evasion in the sector that they are targeting. Lawyers are the first professional group to be covered by a taskforce. Previously doctors and dentists, and tutors and coaches have been covered by disclosure campaigns.
“Last year’s taskforces have already led to at least 13 criminal investigations. It is clear that HMRC are getting increasingly tough in their determination to reach their target of bringing in an extra £7 billion over the Parliament through initiatives to tackle tax avoidance, evasion and fraud.
“Whether they are in a sector affected by the taskforces or not, anyone who is worried that they have been underpaying tax – whether deliberately or in error – should get professional advice without delay. Penalties will generally be less severe for taxpayers who come forward voluntarily to put their affairs in order with HMRC.”
The CIOT is also calling for a ‘general disclosure facility’ to encourage people to get their tax affairs back in order. Gary Ashford said: “As the House of Commons Treasury Committee has highlighted, there is a need for a clearly signposted, permanent route to enable anyone whose tax affairs have slipped but who has seen the light and wants to get themselves regularised again to do so. It would need to be clear what the penalties would be and the circumstances in which prosecution would be used. The aim has to be to encourage people to get back on track and not stay in the shadows.”
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2012