HMRC to increase focus on tax avoiders by GlynnePowell


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HMRC to increase focus on tax avoiders
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is to crack down on those
who use tax avoidance schemes.

                                                      The HMRC have issued a new briefing on tackling tax avoidance. In
                                                      the document released yesterday it explains the steps that are being
                                                      taken to stop those bending the rules of the tax system to gain an
                                                      unfair tax advantage, in cases where a business or individual
                                                      operates within the letter – but not the spirit – of the law.

Figures from HMRC show that the tax gap – the difference between what is owed and what is collected – is about £35
billion, which is 8pc of the total amount of tax due. Tax avoidance accounts for 14pc of this gap – around £5 billion or
1pc of the tax due.

A spokesman from the HMRC said: "It is important that our customers know that if they choose to engage in tax
avoidance we will be relentless in pursuing them.

"We will challenge tax avoidance and will take legal action against [tax avoidance] schemes whenever possible.
Instead of the tax savings they hoped to achieve, people who use tax avoidance schemes run the risk of wasting
money on fees for a scheme that does not work, and will have to spend time dealing with an in-depth investigation by
us into their tax affairs. Taxpayers may find themselves being cross-examined before a tax tribunal and having their
tax avoidance exposed to public scrutiny when the tribunal's decision is published."
Mike Warburton, director of tax at accountants Grant Thornton, said that while it is understandable that HMRC are
taking rigorous steps to tackle tax avoidance, the problem is trying to define it.

"HMRC say that avoidance is bending the rules to take advantage of them in a way never intended by parliament but
that presupposes that parliament has made its intentions clear," he said. "Tax legislation has evolved over time into
such a complex web of measures which may no longer reflect current intentions. The key is surely tax simplification."

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