Wealthy taxpayers are being warned they are more likely to face an Inland Revenue inquiry after it emerged the department has moved special investigators into local units handling their tax returns.
The alert comes after Special Compliance Office staff – the investigatory arm of the Revenue – took charge in August of Complex Personal Returns Units around the country as part of a move the Revenue insists is to ‘improve customer service’.
But Richard Clarke, a senior manager at PwC and a former Inland Revenue officer involved with CPRUs, said the investigators ‘have been asked to bring SCO methods to a local level’.
Because of this, he said, ‘we have to say to our (PwC) clients that it makes an inquiry much more likely’.
The overall responsibility for CPRUs rests with Geoff Lunn, a former deputy director of the SCO. Many of the individual CPRU offices – there are seven across the country – are headed by one-time SCO staff.
‘The Revenue is at a bit of a turning point this year, in that the pressure for results from its political masters are there all across the board,’ said Clarke. ‘CPRUs are there as part of that pressure. The idea is for them to achieve results, to start inquiry work and finish them in order to get more tax in.’
He cited figures that stated for every pound the Revenue invested in investigations, it got only 60 pence back. ‘Politically that went down very badly, and CPRUs are all part of (improving) that,’ he said.
The Revenue denies the allegations and insists the only reason such units have been set up is to tackle individuals whose ‘returns show particularly complex features’. Officials said no figures were available on tax income gathered as a result of work by the personal tax units.
A spokesperson said ‘information isn’t available yet’, and that it wasn’t the Revenue’s intention to weed out tax evaders. Despite this, Clarke said there is already evidence of a new regime. ‘I don’t see the new breed of CPRU personnel being shy with their powers,’ he said.
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