SERIOUS TAX EVASION cases identified by HM Revenue & Customs has dropped nearly a quarter over the last 12 months.
In 2011/12, there were 3,456 suspected cases, the lowest number for five years and down 23% on the 4,506 identified in 2010/11, according to figures obtained by law firm, Pinsent Masons.
HMRC defines a case as ‘serious’ where £50,000 or more has been evaded, or when prosecution is possible.
The firm believes HMRC’s anti-fraud measures are behind the decline, with the taxman more than doubling its property raids over the same period – up from 196 to 499 last year.
Public and media concern over tax evasion and avoidance has grown in recent years. However, Phil Berwick, director at Pinsent Masons, said the fall “doesn’t really gel with the idea there is a substantial and growing threat to public spending”.
Instead he points to the recent case of Surrey plumber Melvyn Careswell, who evaded £50,000 in taxes and was sentenced to one year in jail following an HMRC criminal prosecution.
Berwick said: “A few years ago, a £50,000 tax evasion case would almost certainly have been subject to civil, rather than criminal prosecution.
“HMRC is now prepared to use its strongest anti-evasion measures in cases that would previously have been regarded as quite modest in size.”