HMRC announced on 12 February 2013 that four new task forces are being established as the latest in a series of initiatives by HMRC designed to clamp down on tax evasion and reduce the tax gap (the difference between the tax that ought to be paid and is paid).
The first, and perhaps most important, of these will target Self Assessment fraud and, in particular, those people in London and the South East who have made false repayment claims. HMRC will be targeting up to 400 people through this initiative.
Other taskforces will focus on tax evasion in Northern Ireland (no specific sector is mentioned), the jewellery trade in the Midlands and fast food outlets in East Anglia.
HMRC have estimated that these and other task forces are on course to collect in excess of £90 million since being launched in 2011/12. Part of their success is attributable to the ‘short, sharp’ bursts of activity concentrating on specific trades in areas which are designated as being high-risk. The teams conduct announced and unannounced visits on businesses, as well as full enquiries into taxpayers’ affairs. In the most serious cases HMRC may consider criminal investigations.
It will be important for anyone who operates in these sectors and feels that they might be at risk to seek specialist advice to assess their options and limit the risk of a criminal investigation. There are a number of solutions available to people who are looking to pre-empt a possible visit from HMRC.