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HMRC tax fugitives list – what’s it all about?

HMRC tax fugitives list – what’s it all about?

It would be difficult to fail to notice that HMRC has become increasingly aggressive in its approach towards scrutinising both personal and business taxpayers. The last few years have seen a great number of changes in the way that they pursue their tax investigations and they certainly appear to have adopted a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to those who are deemed to be avoiding their taxes in any way. One of the latest projects to help HMRC catch these tax dodgers is to put together a ‘tax fugitives’ list which not only names and shames but also publishes photos of individuals who are known to be involved in criminal tax activity.

What’s the aim?

According to HMRC the primary purpose of this is to get leads from the public which will help them catch these people in conjunction with their other investigative activities. Overall, they aim to be recovering around £7bn a year by 2015.
On the face of it this latest move can only be seen as good news. Presumably any recovered cash will go back into public services and, who knows, maybe even result in tax reductions of some kind in the future. The UK Chancellor George Osborne is determined to be proactive in protecting public revenues and is supportive of any measures which achieve this aim. In a recent statement on the subject he said:  “The message to people who evade their taxes is very clear:  we are coming to get you and we will catch you.” However, is this latest approach really the answer?

Why produce a list?

Certainly naming and shaming will act as a deterrent for most law abiding taxpayers. Being pursued by HMRC is a complete nightmare scenario for most people. However, it’s debatable if the average hardened international tax dodger will feel the same way about this. After all, they are usually already engaged in clearly criminal activities and are prepared to carry the risks these involve. Another point is that whilst pursuing individuals who owe thousands of pounds in taxes makes sense, this is surely small fry in comparison to the millions which are potentially being evaded by big commercial institutions. Many feel that HMRC needs to get much tougher with the big companies and perhaps spend less time harassing the small time evaders.

Has the list helped?

There has been a lot of debate recently on the effectiveness of the list with some commentators being in favour of this tactic and others heavily criticising it. HMRC recently published a report of the results of the first year of the tax fugitives’ list operation. Criticism of the programme has arisen primarily due to the fact that the report reveals that only one the 20 people named a year ago has actually now been caught. As a result a number of political commentators have labelled the project a ‘huge failure’ and are calling for resources to be focussed more productively elsewhere. However, HMRC has defended the project and insists that the list is a highly valuable exercise. They point out that the process of chasing individuals, not just in the UK but across international borders, can be long and complicated but can definitely prove to be fruitful in the end. HMRC are confident that the list is helping and state that its publication has led to the gathering of useful intelligence on a further 17 of the names they are currently actively pursuing.

The debate on this is sure to continue as tax is such a complex and emotive issue. In the meantime, as a Limited Company contractor, you’ll simply want peace of mind that your own tax affairs are currently in good order. Fortunately, at Intouch all of our clients have access to professionally qualified tax specialists who have the knowledge and experience to ensure that their tax activities are legal, allowable and fully HMRC compliant.


This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.