HMRC investigation aims to bring in £1.9bn in unpaid taxes from the UK's richest people

Written by Nicholas Mairs on 1 November 2016 in News

Public Accounts Committee warns approach could be seen as a “cosy way” of dealing with the richest in society

HMRC sign - credit: HMRC

HMRC is conducting investigations that could recoup £1.9bn from the country’s richest people, according to the National Audit Office.

In a report on ‘high net worth individuals’ – those who have wealth of more than £10m – the NAO said the HMRC unit had brought in £416m of tax last year that was not declared voluntarily.

The NAO said the department was looking into a further £1.9bn, of which £1.1bn related to “marketed avoidance schemes” – which are used by approximately 15 per cent of the 6,500 who are classified as ‘high net worth’.


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The Public Accounts Committee said it was “pleased” with the progress, but cautioned the unit that it could be seen as a “cosy way” of dealing with the richest in society.

In 2014/15 those individuals contributed £4.3bn to the public purse through declared income tax, national insurance and capital gains tax.

The extra £416m came from “compliance work” with HMRC after it identified issues deemed worth a formal enquiry.

HMRC currently has 6,000 issues under enquiry, related to approximately a third of the high net worth individuals.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The tax affairs of the wealthiest in society are complex, making it harder for HMRC to ensure that they are paying the right amount of tax.

“HMRC’s specialist team gives it a better understanding of the tax affairs and behaviours of these taxpayers.

“While the yields from HMRC's work in this area have increased it needs to evaluate what approaches are the most effective and to understand the outcomes it achieves.” 

Meg Hillier said the Public Accounts Committee would be “watching carefully” how the restructured group takes on those shirking their contributions to the public purse.

“For the ordinary taxpayer, HMRC’s use of ‘Customer Relationship Managers’ will sound rather a cosy way for HMRC to engage with the richest people in the country; people worth over £20m each,” the PAC chair said.

“However, I am pleased to see HMRC is beginning to link these individuals to the businesses and trusts they are also involved in, to help tackle the £1.9bn of tax that is potentially at risk.

“The Committee will be watching carefully to see how effective HMRC’s reorganised customer compliance team proves to be. And to see the outcome of HMRC’s proposals to sanction those who market these schemes, including the wealthy individuals promoting tax avoidance to one another.”

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