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Tax department ‘cracks down on middle England’

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Pinsent Masons has reported that the number of criminal prosecutions for tax evasions has more than doubled in a year, as HMRC ‘cracks down on middle England’. According to figures obtained by the law firm, there were 617 tax evasion prosecutions in 2012/13, compared with 302 in 2011/12. This meant that HMRC far exceeded its target of 565 prosecutions, whereas the department failed to hit its target of 365 the year before.

Jason Collins, partner at Pinsent Masons, said: ‘In the space of just one year, HMRC has massively ramped up the numbers of cases it takes to the criminal courts in order to clamp down on tax evasion. However, to hit that target and maximise the deterrent effect, HMRC is now taking criminal cases against the kind of tax evaders it would have previously seen as small time. This means criminal cases against “middle class” professionals and trades people who are evading what are relatively small sums of money.’

In response, an HMRC spokesman told Tax Journal: ‘HMRC ensures everyone pays the tax that is due, and clamps down on those who try to cheat the system – regardless of their occupation. HMRC has been tasked to increase prosecutions five-fold, and has been given almost £1bn to ensure that people play by the rules. HMRC is successful in over 90% of prosecutions.

‘HMRC campaigns – such as those for plumbers, doctors and dentists and those with offshore accounts – gave people the chance to come forward and put things right on their own accord before HMRC took action. This approach has raised over £600m so far.’