HMRC criticised for soft peddling

In a recent report prepared by the Public Accounts Committee HMRC was accused of pursuing smaller businesses with more vigour than larger concerns. HMRC was also criticised for under estimating the amount of uncollected tax, over estimating amounts due from the holders of Swiss bank accounts, and collecting tax credit debt.

A summary of the Committee’s comments is set out below:

“In pursuing unpaid tax, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has not clearly demonstrated that it is on the side of the majority of taxpayers who pay their taxes in full. It does not use the full range of sanctions at its disposal to pursue vigorously all unpaid tax, and its measure of the tax gap does not capture all the avoided tax that it should be collecting. HMRC massively over-estimated how much it would collect from UK holders of Swiss bank accounts, and in 2013-14 has so far collected only £440 million of the £3.12 billion predicted in the 2012 Autumn Statement. HMRC is not doing enough to collect tax credits debt or to tackle tax credit error and fraud.

When determining the tax regime for businesses, HMRC needs to strike the right balance between support and enforcement. It has not considered adequately the impact that measures designed to make the UK a more attractive place for large businesses to operate would have on the way companies structure their business, and how this would affect tax receipts from them. While HMRC has made good progress towards implementing Real Time Information (RTI), it must continue to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the transition to the new system.”

The comments regarding smaller businesses are particularly ironic: that our tax system discriminates against this sector whilst letting larger concerns off the hook.