HMRC ramp up serious investigations

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HMRC launched 278 civil investigations into suspected tax evasion during the first 10 months of the Covid-19 pandemic according to recent figures.The 278 civil investigations, which were opened between 1 April 2020 and 31 January 2021, are known as Code of Practice 9 enquiries (COP9).These types of enquiry are opened into the affairs of taxpayers who are suspected of committing serious tax fraud. This includes deliberately paying less tax than is due, overclaiming tax reliefs or misclaiming government grants.Under a COP9 enquiry, HMRC has the right to seek recovery of tax, interest and penalties for as far back as 20 years. Despite these far-reaching investigatory powers, many taxpayers will see this as a far preferable alternative to a criminal investigation.In a COP9 enquiry taxpayers are required to provide details of the amount of tax they have evaded as an alternative to criminal proceedings. HMRC sees COP9 enquiries as a much quicker and less costly process than having to enter criminal proceedings.Many in the world of accountancy expect that HMRC may use the COP9 tool to encourage more suspected furlough fraudsters to come forward.

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