THIS GOVERNMENT is taking a hard-line approach to tax evasion.
The public expects nothing less – particularly at a time when we are making so many tough choices elsewhere. Tax evaders cheat the law-abiding majority who pay their taxes, and rob public services of vital resources.
Over the next four years we will invest £900m in HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to tackle criminal behaviour, evasion and fraud. From this year HMRC will have an additional 200 criminal investigators in place. They will have new tools to link and organise data from numerous sources – reducing the amount of time it takes to identify and target non-compliant customers and rule-breakers. And they will be resourced and empowered to pursue more prosecutions.
We have also increased the penalties HMRC can levy on people hiding money offshore by up to 200%, and are introducing business record checks to ensure businesses are prompted to get their tax records in order.
We are backing HMRC’s launch of a new approach toward those who have established a track record of non-compliance. Under the Managing Deliberate Defaulters (MDD) programme, developed with representatives of the tax institutes, HMRC will monitor the tax affairs of individuals and businesses who have deliberately evaded tax. They will be checking that they are complying with their tax obligations and have demonstrated a permanent change in their behaviour.
We believe this tough but proportionate programme will deter would be rule-breakers and help HMRC deploy its resources to today’s risks.
I’m keen to see HMRC and agents working together to ensure people understand that the world has changed for those who break the rules on tax and the consequences that will now follow for those who do so. Agents represent some eight million customers and are well placed to influence their clients’ behaviour – particularly new businesses, establishing their habits.
Agents can also help us ensure taxpayers’ investment in HMRC is well spent and will deliver the additional £7bn of revenue we want to see them bring in by 2014/15. I am encouraging further collaboration between HMRC and tax professionals on the design and introduction of new campaigns through mechanisms such as HMRC’s compliance reform.
These are tough times, and we are taking measures accordingly to deal with our country’s debts. Many of you can and do make a real difference to helping the UK meet its financial challenges through how you serve your clients day-to-day. For those willing and able to give a little more time to get involved directly, I urge you to do so.
David Gauke is Exchequer secretary to the Treasury
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