As published on citywire.co.uk, Thursday 30 July, 2020.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has ramped up investigations against the wealthy, as it seeks to show its commitment to battling sophisticated tax evasion.
Citing data retrieved by Thomson Reuters, the Financial Times reported the taxman had launched 430 probes into individuals and firms it suspects of complex tax evasion in 2019-2020.
This is around a quarter more than in the previous year, and represents increase of 65% from the 260 investigations it began in 2017-2018.
It comes after HMRC promised to increase the number criminal investigations it engages in the wake of 2016’s Panama Papers, which exposed thousands of wealthy individuals had been stashing their money offshore.
Following the leak, the government launched a taskforce to analyse the data it provided and open civil as well as criminal probes.
The adoption of the Common Reporting Standard in 2014 has also led to the sharing of data with around 100 other tax authorities. The Financial Times revealed in March that HMRC had sent out thousands of letters warning taxpayers that false declarations in failed income could result in prosecution.
In his March budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak said the goverment had raised £4.4bn through cracking down ‘avoidance and evasion’.
HMRC said in a statement: ‘By tackling the most serious forms of tax crime, we are creating a level playing for businesses and citizens, and focusing our criminal investigations at the top-end of the highest-harm and most complex organised crime and serious frauds, where they have most impact.’