Taxman extends scrutiny of the wealthy

Hundreds of thousands more wealthy individuals will appear on HM Revenue & Customs’ radar after it doubled its team for tackling wealthy tax avoiders to more than 200 inspectors.

HMRC announced plans to expand the remit of the Affluent Unit. In addition to taxpayers with an annual income of more than £150,000 and wealth of between £2.5m and £20m, the unit will also cover those with wealth in the £1m to £2.5m range.

The move is expected to increase the number of wealthy individuals under scrutiny to 500,000 according to HMRC estimates.

The Treasury said that by the end of December 2012 the unit had brought in an extra £75m in tax, which was well ahead of expectations, and now set a target of £586m by the end of 2015.

David Gauke, exchequer secretary, said: “The vast majority of people pay their way. Dodging tax is immoral, illegal and unaffordable and the minority who cheat are increasingly finding that, thanks to the work of the Affluent team, they have made a big mistake.”

John Cassidy, tax investigations and disputes resolution partner at the accountants PKF, said the recruitment of 100 additional inspectors was a “no brainer” for the government.

“Overall, the government’s strategy of investing £917m to help HMRC increase annual tax yields by £7bn appears to be delivering results ahead of schedule, so it’s logical to bolster this area in the short term,” he said.

“Couple that with continued public anger with those who are perceived not be paying their fair share of tax, and this is something of a no brainer”.

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