Not all penalties levied by HMRC are civil, many cases are serious enough to warrant a criminal investigation. The first post in the “money” section of the gov.uk website in 2020 reflects on this. The title of the post is a give-a-way:
“Busted! HMRC reveals biggest criminal cases of year 2019”
In what could be seen as a propaganda exercise HMRC are clearly underlining the fact that tax evasion of the criminal kind has their full attention. In more detail the press release says:
This year’s top criminal cases include:
1. 2 wealthy professionals who attempted to steal more than £60 million through a fraudulent tax avoidance scheme which claimed to invest in HIV research and conservation and were jailed for a total of 14 and a half years.
2. A Berkshire-based gang that stole £34 million in VAT and laundered £87 million, the proceeds from selling illicit alcohol through bank accounts in Britain, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Dubai and other countries – were jailed for more than 46 years.
3. A fugitive £17 million tax fraudster who is finally behind bars after he was tracked down to his Prague hideaway and brought back to the UK to serve his 8-year sentence.
4. Five people, including the former owners of a Sussex petrol station, who were sentenced for distributing and selling an estimated 4.8 million litres of illicit fuel to unsuspecting motorists, including haulage companies across the South East.
5. The jailing of a former Top Gear mechanic who helped father and son tax cheats escape from the UK via ferry and Eurotunnel prior to sentencing for a £1 million VAT fraud.
6. Payback time for 5 wealthy tax fraudsters who were involved in one of the UK’s biggest tax frauds.
7. An apparently jobless Londoner who enjoyed a sociable lifestyle of golf and exotic holidays by dodging tax on smuggled tobacco has been jailed.
8. A charity treasurer who tried to steal more than £330,000 in a Gift Aid repayment fraud and spent the money on lavish cruise holidays.
9. Our work with Interpol to take apart a pan-European crime gang involved in cigarette trafficking, drug smuggling and money laundering.
All in all, not a bad haul. We can expect HMRC to expand the range of their anti-tax evasion activities in 2020. No doubt the forthcoming spring budget will have the usual sprinkling of fine print, adding more regulation to the tax code.