Taxman probes two thirds of Britain’s biggest companies

HMRC is investigating the tax arrangements of two-thirds of the UK’s biggest companies.

Jennie Granger, the taxman’s director general of enforcement and compliance, told an HMRC stakeholder conference that the majority of the probes covered “multiple issues”.

Granger said: “We are enquiring into two out of three of the largest corporations operating in the UK – many of which are multinationals.

“That is not to say that most large businesses are on the make. But it does highlight both the complexity of the international tax system in which they operate and our need to be very actively scrutinising how they negotiate their way through that system.”

HMRC’s focus on large businesses – which account for a quarter of the £34bn estimated tax gap, and contribute around 60% of UK tax receipts – has generated £31bn in additional revenue over the last four years.

But Tax Research UK’s Richard Murphy suggests through his blog that a lack of HMRC resource is behind the fact that all such businesses are not falling under the taxman’s microscope.

Murphy writes: “What amazes me is not that two thirds of these businesses are under investigation but that one third are not.

“Given the complexity of the tax issues they face the idea that two thirds of the largest companies in the UK have not a single corporation tax, PAYE or VAT issue in dispute suggests that HMRC must be really short of resources.

“I really can’t see another likely explanation. And that’s very troubling indeed.”

A spokesman for HMRC denied they were under-resourced.

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