The Revenue has long considered the benefits of offering those involved in tax evasion the chance to square up while avoiding prosecution and a new review of the department’s complaints strategy could provide the opportunity.
The review is headed by John Middlton and his assistant Ray McCann and while they are unwilling to disclose whether a tax amnesty will form part of a new approach, insiders told Accountancy Age that Revenue officials privately have an ‘open mind’ on the issue.
Observers believe an amnesty would go a long way to help meet Gordon Brown’s pledge to raise £1.6bn in extra tax revenue.
Stephen Camm, a partner in the tax investigations practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: ‘They are having to think quite inventively as to what they are going to have to do to bring in those funds,’ said Camm. ‘An amnesty would be a simple way of doing that.’
Customs & Excise ran a ‘VAT incentive’ to encourage those who had failed to pay their VAT bill to come forward without fear of reproach. A spokesman said it was too early to gauge its success, whether the department would be repeating the process, or whether it would liaise with the Revenue on its findings.
A Revenue spokesman said there were no plans for an amnesty. ‘The claimed advantages are not proven, and on balance they may be outweighed by the disadvantages,’ he said.
The Revenue’s investigation procedure, known as Hansard, has always offered the opportunity for taxpayers to come clean over their tax affairs, while avoiding prosecution, but few people come forward voluntarily.
Clive Stephens of the Revenue’s Special Compliance Office was presenting a seminar to interested parties on the reintroduction of the Hansard procedure after it became embroiled in legal problems. A controversial Court of Appeals decision means interviewees must now be read their rights and all interviews recorded.
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