HMRC prosecuted twice as many people for tax evasion in 2012 compared with the twelve months previously say Harris & Co chartered accountants Northampton who specialise in providing accountancy services to small businesses.
The tax authorities won 617 criminal prosecutions for tax evasion during 2012/13, up from 302 in 2011/12, according to figures obtained by Pinsent Masons. This is more than the department’s own target of 565 prosecutions for the year, but comes after it missed a much lower target of 365 in 2011/12.
Jason Collins, Pinsent Masons partner, 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.’
Collins claimed that buy-to-let investors, along with lawyers, doctors and financial consultants, are among those whose tax affairs are attracting strong interest from HMRC.
An HMRC spokesman denied that it was focusing on any specific groups, saying: ‘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 90% of prosecutions.’
In recent months HMRC has run targeted anti-evasion campaigns aimed at professions and trades such as doctors, plumbers and electricians, offering a period of amnesty for those who want to declare unpaid tax. To date, these have raised more than £600m.