The Crown Prosecution Service has announced that it will dramatically increase the number of cases of tax evasion that it prosecutes. In an interview with the Financial Times, Keir Starmer (pictured), the director of public prosecutions, said he would be sending a message to those who are considering illegally paying less tax.
The experts say this is likely to make the middle classes a target.
IncreaseThe CPS has said it will increase the number of cases it prosecutes five-fold to 1,500 a year. The idea will be to mirror the tough stance of HMRC, so that anyone considering trying to get out of paying tax will find it a particularly dangerous business. It will announce this tomorrow - at which point Starmer will highlight that tax cheats cost each UK household £533 a year.
The announcement from the CPS comes a month after a very similar one from HMRC, which said at the time that it wanted to prosecute five times more people by 2014 - as part of a £900 million anti-tax-evasion crackdown.
Starmer told the newspaper: "There have been some cases involving lawyers, some involving tax consultants, and plumbers. Within the ramped-up volume, it's intended that we will select cases to send a clear message as to the breadth of our coverage."
Middle classesIt also sends a strong message to large numbers of people who might consider the approach otherwise. The middle classes make effective targets because of the numbers involved. If you targeted the hugely wealthy you wouldn't be sending a message to many people: only 327,000 people earn over £150,000 a year. However 2.7 million people earn over £50,000. If you make an example of one of them, you are sending a message to millions.
It's likely that this will include groups that HMRC has already announced as targets in the 30 taskforces it has launched since May 2011. These include people who are renting out properties on the side without declaring all the income as tax, as well as lawyers, doctors and plumbers who may be taking some of their income in cash and not declaring it to the taxman. So far these groups have yielded £50 million to the taxman, and they want more.
David Gauke, the Exchequer Secretary, said: "The vast majority of people play by the rules. We will not tolerate tax evasion and will crack down on the minority who choose to break the rules. It cannot be fair that, while most people are paying the right tax, a tiny minority are not paying what they should.