Wednesday, 18 July 2012

HMRC tip-off hotline and catching the crooks

Grassing up

We are told that 74,000 calls were made to HMRC's tip off-line in 2011, reporting suspected tax evaders. That is apparently rather fewer calls than were made in 2010.

I would like to see all dishonest tax-dodgers caught. The so-called black economy consisting of people who offer to re-lay your drive or clean your house soffits and fascias for cash and all the other “cash-in-hand” people who knock on your door cost the country billions in lost tax. Dave Hartnett banged on about this, I remember. He was right in that respect.

Burst water mains

The tax leakage through dishonest tradespeople is very likely much larger than the (legal) avoidance by large corporates and the illegal VAT fraudsters though I am always very pleased when tax crooks are caught and sentenced. Even the driveway-laying tax evaders can apparently get large scale

Most of the 74,000 tip-offs will relate to small scale tax-evasion though in aggregate there will be a large amount of tax lost. That is tax stolen from honest taxpayers' back pockets, considering that the rest of us have to make up the deficit caused by the fiddlers.


What concerns me about the tip-off line is HMRC's resources to deal with the information received. They may have the profiling software, but the false and malicious allegations will need to be weeded out and then the others followed up. Logically, it would be easier to concentrate on the bigger fish because the potential tax recovery would be greater. With any investment in business, the yield is important because it means more profit, even when we are talking about HMRC. Apparently they lack resources even in that area.

HMRC have “task-force” campaign around specific types of businesses but it seems to me this is just nibbling around the edges. I think that, coupled with the profiling software, more well-trained and preferably experienced staff should be taken on. That is anathema to those on high who want to see further staff cuts in Government departments, but potentially the yield should justify the investment costs.

If HMRC want experienced tax people with noses for weeding out the crooks, maybe they should hire some tax practitioners from the private sector. I could make myself available on a part-time basis if I had a suitable offer (I mean it) but my point is that experience in real tax issues is what HMRC requires to sniff out smaller-scale tax evasion. Unfortunately with the cuts and early retirements, experience is what HMRC staff lack.

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