HMRC launches new specialist taskforces
New HMRC specialist taskforces have recently been launched to target individuals and businesses in London and East Anglia with offshore accounts as well as those living lifestyles beyond their obvious means through assets from undeclared income.
The taskforces are part of the Government’s campaign to tackle tax evasion, avoidance and fraud. HMRC aims to raise an additional £7bn each year by 2014/15 from this investment. The taskforces are part of HMRC’s wider remit to tackle evasion and avoidance which includes targeted campaigns including the recently launched tax return initiative.
The targeting of specific sectors is not an amnesty and unlike some other HMRC initiatives, which seek to tempt taxpayers to come forward under favourable terms, there is no formal disclosure facility on offer. HMRC inspectors will therefore have the full range of civil and criminal sanctions at their disposal. This includes the likelihood of businesses having to repay any unpaid tax, interest and penalties.
The worst offenders could face criminal investigation and prison. Offenders that deliberately evade more than £25,000 of tax also face the possibility of being named and shamed under the law that allows HMRC to publish the details of such taxpayers on its website. This type of publicity could obviously have an extremely negative effect on any business.
An investigation by an HMRC taskforce is likely to be a stressful and time consuming affair which will almost certainly involve intrusive searches through business records and tax affairs. Any business that has deliberately evaded tax should take urgent action to make a pre-emptive voluntary disclosure to HMRC. Businesses targeted by any of HMRC’s taskforces should also be aware that the threat of a criminal investigation and a custodial sentence for tax evasion is a real threat.