Categorized | news

Tax avoiders prosecuted in greater numbers by HMRC

The number of tax avoiders dragged into court for their sins have grown by a third in comparison to last year, according to newly released figures.

Tax avoidance and tax evasion is of course a serious problem in the UK right now, and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs has taken it to the limit when it comes to going after people and firms that have been dodging their financial responsibilities. The taxman has been dedicated to squeezing every last penny from anyone and everyone it can, and as a result there were 795 criminal prosecutions in the 2013-14 financial year.

This figure is up by 29 per cent in comparison to the 2012-13 financial year, where there were only 617 prosecutions. Next year HMRC is aiming for even higher figures in order to meet its self-imposed 1,165 prosecution target for the 2014-15 year.

This represents a rather large sea change on the part of the tax authority, who would be highly reticent to pursue criminal prosecutions in the past because the amount of money it would cost to bring such a case would largely erase the cash they would recover in the event of a successful prosecution. Meanwhile, now with a £35 billion tax shortfall to deal with, HMRC seems unsurprisingly keen to get every bit of money it can – even if that means watching most of its progress diminish in the face of high court costs and legal fees.

In all honesty I’m rather torn on this bit of news. On the one hand I’m always chuffed to hear about tax dodgers facing criminal charges, as anyone who cheats HMRC makes it harder on everyone else like you and me who does pay their tax burden responsibly. On the other hand, the taxman’s zeal to recover as much as it possibly can leads me to believe it’s casting a very wide net – and that means it could be targeting individuals who don’t really need the hassle of having to fight off a court case; freelancers, contractors and other self-employed Brits have been used as whipping boys by HMRC in the past, and I truly don’t want to see this go on into the future.

Far be it for me to claim that we need to exempt small business owners from paying their taxes; that’s obviously something that isn’t permissible by any stretch of the imagination. At the same time, many self-employed try their best to pay their taxes every year only to have HMRC move the goal posts on them, so who’s truly to blame?

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