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HMRC doubles headcount at unit targeting ‘affluent’ taxpayers

HMRC’s Affluent Unit has increased its headcount by 54% in two years, from 213 in 2012/13 to 327 in 2014/15 as the tax authority intensifies its tax avoidance crackdown, according to Moore Stephens.

The top ten firm said that the wage bill for Affluent Unit inspectors rose 68% over the same period, from £7.8m to £13.1m.

Set up in 2011, the unit investigates taxpayers on income of over £150,000 per year. It sits alongside the High Net Worth Unit which investigates taxpayers with higher levels of wealth.

The taxman’s ‘affluent unit’ collected £137.2m in extra tax from its probes in 2013/14, up from £85.7m the previous year.

There is significant political pressure to maximise the tax take, and HMRC is scrutinising a broad group of taxpayers, not just high net worth individuals, the firm said.

According to Moore Stephens, factors that can attract the attentions of the unit include possessing property and/or bank accounts offshore; having significant property holdings in the UK; having unusually low rate of tax on total income; filing self-assessment returns late; and previous involvement in a tax planning scheme.

Dominic Arnold, partner at Moore Stephens said: “This increase in headcount at the Affluent Unit is a clear indication that HMRC intends to squeeze more tax out of a wider group of taxpayers.

“The tax affairs of many of the taxpayers who are investigated by the Affluent Unit will be perfectly in order. Some of the measures HMRC uses to determine who faces scrutiny can be quite crude.”

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