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HMRC vows to double efforts on tax avoidance

The Revenue says it is “doubling the resources” to tackle those in the “avoidance supply chain”

The chain can include accountants, avoidance scheme promoters or designers, and financial advisors.

Penny Ciniewicz, HMRC’s director general of customer compliance, told a Treasury select committee evidence session that, “We have more than 100 current investigations into promoters [and enablers] and we’re keeping a very close eye on the market for avoidance.

“We are spotting schemes as they emerge and we’re tackling them,” she said, according to a report from FT Adviser.

One of the ways the Revenue is doing this is by monitoring “PAYE or real time information that might indicate people are getting involved in avoidance” and writing to customers “to nudge them away from avoidance if we think they might be getting into that space”.

Ciniewicz was responding to questions from the committee about HMRC’s controversial loan charge.

The loan charge policy is currently subject to an independent review following months of pressure from MPs, taxpayers and campaigners. The charge came into effect on 6 April and applies to anyone who used so-called disguised remuneration schemes.

The legislation added a 45% non-refundable charge on all loans advanced through the schemes – some of them dating back to 20 years ago – unless the individual had agreed with HMRC to settle their tax affairs beforehand. However, many of the 50,000 people caught up in the issue are low paid, such as nurses and social workers, and were persuaded by their employers to join the schemes. Many of them are facing bankruptcy. Yet, at the time the schemes were set up, HMRC did not question their legitimacy.

The impact of the charge has been so serious that a number of suicides have been reported in connection with it.

Originally published in Economia on 24 October 2019.