In Focus: Tax  

Budget 2021: Taxpayer Protection Taskforce to combat fraud

Budget 2021: Taxpayer Protection Taskforce to combat fraud

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced the creation of an HMRC 'taskforce' to crack down on those defrauding support schemes introduced to combat the economic impact of Covid-19.

"This time last year we set out our promised to the British public. Today we set out a plan to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people", he said. 

As he presented a future of "challenge, change and opportunities" in his Budget speech - one of the shortest in recent years at just under an hour - Sunak outlined plans to help protect taxpayers against the rise in scams and financial fraud.

A new Taxpayer Protection Taskforce will see £100m invested in a team dedicated to cracking down on Covid-19 fraudsters who have exploited government schemes. It will be staffed by more than 1,250 HMRC employees.

They will be responsible for investigating and combatting "those who have sought to fraudulently claim taxpayers' money."

In his speech, Sunak said: "We'll tackle fraud in our Covid schemes to clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion."

There was no mention of combatting the fraud targeting Britons' hard-earned savings, however. Earlier this year, Action Fraud reported that thousands of people have been targeted with scam emails relating to Covid-19 vaccines.

More damagingly still, more than £30m has been reportedly lost to pension scams since 2017, according to complaints filed with Action Fraud.

Experts have claimed the true figure is likely to be much higher, as savers often fail to spot the signs of a scam and don’t know how much is in their pension pots, or are too embarrassed to admit to friends and family that they have been scammed.

As reported by FTAdviser in February, additional Action Fraud figures revealed that financial fraudsters pretending to be legitimate companies stole £78m from unsuspecting victims through pension and investment scams in 2020.

simoney.kyriakou@ft.com