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Voluntary tax disclosure facility launched for solicitors

SOLICITORS have become the latest set of professionals to be targeted by HM Revenue & Customs as the tax authority seeks to crack down on non-payment.

Those wishing to take part in the voluntary tax disclosure scheme must notify HMRC by next March and pay any tax that is owed by June 2015. Doing this HMRC says individuals will have a number of guarantees, including the ability to spread tax payments over a period rather than paying in one lump sum.

If an individual has simply made a careless mistake with their tax, they will only pay for a maximum of six years irrespective of how far behind the person is with their tax affairs.

If an individual, however, chooses not to come forward and HMRC finds later that they are behind with their tax, HMRC has the power to go back up to 20 years in serious cases and may carry out a criminal investigation.

The scheme is by no means the first of its kind. Other sector-focused crackdowns have previously been announced, including a dentists tax amnesty, and a tax taskforce against lawyers.

Gary Clarkson, tax specialist at national law firm Irwin Mitchell, said that targeting a particular profession usually meant the taxman had gained details on the workforce. “Their systems are very sophisticated nowadays and with tough tax collection targets to meet, I think it’s very likely that it will soon be taking a hardline approach to solicitors who it believes are not declaring their tax accurately.

“It is important that solicitors who are in any doubt about their tax affairs consider this scheme and seek advice where needed. There is a limited timeframe to notify HMRC and as always, opening up a dialogue with the authorities early is always looked at far more favourably by HMRC than taking no action at all.”

Watt Busfield Tax Investigations partner Rebecca Busfield said that solicitors should stop “burying their heads in the sand” and make a disclosure. “…HMRC normally follow up these campaigns with information requests from third parties and will start investigations where there are inconsistencies. They are likely to treat anyone who misses this opportunity more severely,” said Busfield.

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