THE NUMBER of criminal prosecutions for tax evasion have risen more than 100% after HM Revenue & Customs broadened the scope of it investigations, law firm Pinsent Masons claims.
A total of 617 people were prosecuted in 2012/13, up from 302 the year before, with more white-collar business men and women and buy-to-let landlords targeted.
With a war chest of £917m set aside in the 2009/10 spending review earmarked for tackling evasion, middle class evaders have been the focus of the crackdown, rather than the super-rich, who it is claimed are harder to prosecute.
The amounts that HMRC may spend on a criminal prosecution often far outweigh the amount of tax evaded. The spend, however, is justified, it says, because it sends out a hard message to others and should result in less tax evasion in the future.
Pinsent Masons partner Jason Collins said: “Those in a position of trust or responsibility, such as lawyers, medical practitioners or business or financial consultants, are increasingly in HMRC’s line of fire, and we are also seeing an increase in buy-to-let investors falling foul of the system.
“Many people see buy-to-let as a substitute for a pension. It may produce similar financial results but they need to remember they can still incur significant tax liabilities. For new, part-time landlords who put their buy-to-let properties to the back of their mind to focus on their day job while the money rolls in, it can be quite easy to get caught out.”
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