Thousands of doctors and dentists face investigation for possible tax evasion after only one in 20 of those suspected of under-declaring their income came forward under a special amnesty offered by Revenue & Customs.
About 1,500 doctors and dentists have owned up to an average of £6,500 of unpaid tax, with the biggest case alone raising £1.2m.
But the Chartered Institute of Taxation said it was surprised and concerned about the low take-up of the initiative, as Revenue data suggested about 30,000 medical professionals might have undisclosed tax liabilities.
Gary Ashford of the institute said: “If only 1,500 have come forward, that is a considerable surprise and suggests that either many professionals are not taking this seriously – or of course that HMRC have failed to get their message across properly.”
Pockets of the medical profession stand accused of failing to declare payments for consultations, medicals and other fees, backed by details of payments that the Revenue has received from sources such as National Health Service trusts, private hospitals and medical insurance companies.
Next month, the Revenue will begin sifting through data to identify people who should have come forward. Mr Ashford urged individuals to get their affairs in order quickly. “It’s clear to us that HMRC are intending to come down hard on defaulters.”
Chas Roy-Chowdhury of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants said he was shocked at the numbers. “The impression I get is that among this population there seems at best a culture of not fully adhering to the tax rules and at worst a number may have been evading tax.”
The Revenue said it was not disappointed by the yield of the initiative – the first of planned campaigns targeting professionals – as it was inexpensive to run and the results had been unpredictable. But it intended to pursue anyone who should have come forward, imposing penalties of up to 100 per cent of the tax due.
Professionals such as doctors and dentists face a greater than average risk of prosecution because they are expected to understand the rules and abide by a code of ethics.
The British Medical Association said: “We gave information about the [Revenue’s initiative] to our members and recommended them to contact their financial advisers if they were concerned about their tax position. We said we would expect doctors to pay whatever tax they owed – this remains our position.”
Separately, about 5,500 individuals with undeclared offshore accounts have come forward to pay £82m in tax under the new disclosure opportunity, the latest amnesty targeting offshore tax evasion.
The initiative, which yielded less than most experts expected, coincided with legal notices that forced 130 banks to disclose customer information.
Get alerts on UK business & economy when a new story is published