THE NUMBER OF DAWN RAIDS carried out by HM Revenue & Customs as a result of tax evasion investigations has fallen around 6% over the past year.
The figures, obtained from HMRC by law firm Irwin Mitchell using the Freedom of Information Act, show that while the number of search warrants executed increased each year between 2010 to 2013, only 744 warrants were executed in 2013/14, a 6% decrease on the previous year.
Around 500 warrants were executed between 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011, with 731 in the subsequent year and 793 in 2012- 2013.
Raids are carried out by HMRC when they are conducting criminal investigations into suspected criminal activity. The numbers grew in 2011/12 when HMRC geared up its tax evasion crackdown and increased its prosecution targets fivefold. The department was given almost £1bn from efficiency savings to ensure taxpayers play by the rules.
In 2012/13, there were 617 people prosecuted for tax evasion, up from 302 the previous year and in excess of the target for that year.
Contentious tax partner Phil Berwick said: “With increased prosecution targets, HMRC appear to be struggling with the number of raids conducted. At a time when you would expect the number of raids to continue increasing, they have reduced. The labour-intensive nature of raids will have an impact on the level of activity that HMRC can undertake.
“HMRC is being pulled in many different directions, which doesn’t help. The number of raids will need to increase significantly if HMRC is to achieve its target of 1,165 prosecutions for tax evasion in 2014/15.”
An HMRC spokeswoman said:”HMRC prosecutions have increased year on year since 2010, with 915 prosecutions last year. We remain on target; to suggest otherwise is wholly inaccurate.
“HMRC executes search warrants only when absolutely necessary and only when we believe a crime has been committed. There are no set targets regarding the number of warrants executed.”
At HMRC, Dmitri Surendran was responsible for leading the London team of the offshore, corporate and wealthy unit of the fraud investigation service
Rosamond McDowell looks at key changes to inheritance tax policy, which apply from April this year
Report argues that the government must change the way it makes tax and budget decisions
Drastically fewer offices for HMRC in the hope to reduce their running costs