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HMRC To 'Name And Shame' Tax Evaders

Friday, March 5, 2010

Taxpayers and companies who deliberately evade taxes in the UK face having their name, address and details of their evasion made public after new legislation was put into force on March 3.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will be able to publish names and details of individuals and companies who are caught dodging their taxes from April 1, 2010, when section 94 of the Finance Act 2009 comes into force.

Stephen Timms, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “It is only right that people pay their fair share of tax, which supports vital public services. We know that law-abiding taxpayers will want to see the results of HMRC’s investigations into tax cheats.

He added: “This new approach should make people think again about trying to get away with tax fraud. As well as having to pay the tax, interest on the tax, plus penalties of up to 100% of the tax lost, they also now risk being identified publicly. “We are only targeting deliberate tax evaders. So if you know that you have not paid the right tax, and you want to avoid being named, contact HMRC right away to set things straight.”

It is planned that names will be published on HMRC’s website. Because this measure will only be applied for periods starting from April 1, 2010, it is not expected that any names will be published before the first half of 2011.

Taxpayers who may be named and shamed are those who have deliberately evaded tax of more than GBP25,000 in total.

A similar scheme currently operates in the Republic of Ireland, and the UK government hopes that 'naming and shaming' will act as an additional deterrent in its enforcement arsenal to reduce tax evasion. However, one tax expert warns that businesses may stand to lose substantially more from having their name emblazoned on HMRC's defaulters' page than would be the case if just a financial penalty was imposed.

"Being named publicly in this way could be likened to 'ASBOs for tax evaders' causing a lot of damage to the individual's personal and commercial reputation," commented Stephen Camm, tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"It may a seem insensitive to 'name and shame' in this way, but will have a bigger impact for some than a straight-forward financial penalty, demolishing the facade of respectability that they would have previously maintained," he cautioned.