New tax-dodger crackdown announced

hairdresserKai Remmers/DPA/Press Association Images

The taxman's assault on tax dodgers has stepped into gear again, with the announcement of four new types of business around the UK which are to face new scrutiny and investigation.

So who is under pressure, and do you have anything to worry about?

Targets

The four sectors targeted by special taskforces have been named as Scottish pubs and nightclubs, hair and beauty businesses in Northern Ireland, the motor trade in South Wales, South West, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the North East and restaurants in South Wales and the South West.

Taskforces will visit traders and carry out spot checks of their records. They will also carry out in-depth investigations.
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So should you be worried?

If you are in one of the named businesses you shouldn't have anything to fear as long as you have completed your records correctly and paid all the tax owed. Of course, there will be plenty of law-abiding businesses who will find their business put under terrible strain by a spot check, as they struggle to lay their hands on the proof they need to show they haven't been breaking any rules.

If you have been breaking the rules, then this could be the beginning of the end, and there's a good argument that you have it coming to you. The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, says: "At a time when we are trying to rebalance the public finances and most hard-working people are making a contribution by paying the right tax, it is just not fair that a small minority try to dodge their responsibilities."

These specific taskforces are expected to yield £30 million in unpaid tax. HMRC's Mike Eland, Director General Enforcement and Compliance, said: "Everyone needs to pay the taxes they owe in full - these new taskforces will help us crack down on the minority who have chosen to break the rules. If you have paid all your taxes you have nothing to worry about. But deliberately evading tax you should be paying can land you with not only a heavy fine but possibly a criminal prosecution as well. This is not an empty threat - HMRC can and will track you down if you choose to break the rules."

The rest of us

In fact, even if you run a business outside these sectors, if you have been breaking the rules, this should be a wake-up call to show you that it cannot continue, and you need to put things right. HMRC launched 12 taskforces between April last year and this year. It will launch 30 more this tax year, and is expected to continue to step up its efforts until it has repaid the £917 million invested in taskforces.

For many businesses, the past few years have been incredibly tough. For some the answer has been to cut corners and try to bend the rules to suit them. Unfortunately for these businesses, HMRC is coming for them.

And as public opinion mounts against tax avoidance, there is always the risk that someone somewhere could be putting in a call to the taxman as you read this.

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