The number of individuals being monitored by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over tax evasion suspicions has jumped by 30 per cent in the past year.
According to recent data, obtained by accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young and confirmed by HMRC, the number of people on the tax authority’s tax evasion watch list jumped to 4,800 in 2019/20, up from 3,700 in the year before.
Those suspected of evading tax may be placed on HMRC’s ‘Managing Serious Defaulters’ programme, introduced in 2011, which aims to stop serious evaders by monitoring their tax affairs for up to five years.
When an individual is placed on the scheme the tax authority can inspect their home or business and perform checks on any part of their tax affairs without any prior warning.
Some individuals are also required to submit additional documentation alongside future tax returns.
HMRC can also ‘name and shame’ repeat offenders on a public list of tax defaulters and charge “significant penalties” if they fail to pay the tax they owe.
An HMRC spokesperson said: “The vast majority of citizens pay their taxes but a small minority try not to and deprive our public services of vital funding.
“HMRC take these cases seriously, using civil or criminal powers to penalise or prosecute evaders, and by monitoring high risk cases.”
Sean Glancy, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said being part of this programme was “a very unpleasant experience” as HMRC can “watch your every move for years on end”.
He added: “The prospect of being ‘named and shamed’ online as part of the punishment only adds to the pain for people on HMRC’s watchlist.
“No-one wants to see their name published alongside the UK’s worst tax cheats and fraudsters.
“HMRC has become much better in recent years at identifying individuals it believes have cheated the tax system.
“The authority is now using big data and new technologies to watch people more closely than ever before, allowing them to focus on repeat offenders.”
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