HMRC opens 27 cases into ‘serious’ tax evasion in corporate sector
07 Sep 2018

The United Kingdom’s tax office opened over twenty investigations into possible tax evasion involving large firms, and also increased the number of cases involving individual taxpayers and small businesses by 24%, according to figures from law firm Pinsent Masons.

HMRC’s Large Business Directorate referred the cases to its evasion referral team in 2017-18. A decision to open an investigation does not necessarily mean that there has indeed been tax evasion.

The ‘numbers would still come as a surprise to many businesses,’ said Pinsent Mason’s Jason Collins, who also explained that most of the tax evasion cases involving both UK and European large companies have been restricted to financial and professional services firms, for example cases involving private bankers helping facilitate evasion by their clients.

“The number of referrals involving potential serious tax evasion by wealthy individuals and mid-sized businesses has remained relatively unchanged in the last two years, with 228 cases in 2017-18 compared to 232 in 2016-17, according to the figures,” Pinsent Masons said.

“Referrals involving individual taxpayers and small businesses increased over the same period by 24%; from 2,586 cases in 2016-17 to 3,204 in 2017-18.”

An HMRC spokesperson said the organisation subjects large businesses to an ‘exceptional level of scrutiny.’

“We actively investigate around half of the UK’s largest businesses at any one time. This does not imply wrongdoing, it’s simply a reflection of how complicated their tax affairs can be and how determined we are to ensure they are paying all the tax they owe.”

“Our public services rely on everyone paying their taxes. It’s unfair for businesses to either not pay their share or try to cheat the system.”

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