It might be argued that HMRC officers enjoy, in some instances, draconian powers, the exercise of which ought to fit the culpability of the alleged perpetrator. In Parliament's November 2018 report on HMRC's powers, it was pointed out that:
".....the Government’s approach does not appear to discriminate effectively between the full range of behaviours and circumstances it describes as tax avoidance. There is a clear difference in culpability, for example, between deliberate and contrived tax avoidance by sophisticated, high-income individuals, and uninformed or naive decisions by unrepresented taxpayers. Clearer distinctions are needed in the Government’s approach and rhetoric towards tax avoidance."
Regrettably, misconstruing culpability and targeting innocent tax payers with a heavy handed approach is, it seems, becoming more and more common. With that in mind, it is interesting to consider this year’s HMRC list of top 10 prosecutions. A list that might be thought to demonstrate HMRC’s relentless pursuit of tax offenders, and the sheer diversity of crimes HMRC deals with. The list includes stealing Gift Aid money from charities, smuggling illicit tobacco in fridge freezers, breaching weapons of mass destruction controls and buying top-end sports cars with the proceeds of crime.
A full run down of each of the 10 prosecutions can be read on Hammad's blog.
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