HMRC plans to launch 30 new task forces to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion over the next two years.
The teams will focus on specific business sectors and locations where the tax man suspects evasion, including the fashion industry, motor trade and indoor and outdoor markets.
Treasury exchequer secretary David Gauke says: “The Government is committed to tackling tax evasion and avoidance. HMRC’s task forces are cracking down on people who choose to break the rules and creating a level playing field for the majority who play by them.”
HMRC says it expects to collect over £50m as a result of 12 task forces set up in the last year, adding that 13 criminal investigations have resulted from their work so far. They will be paid for out of a £917m pot announced by Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander in October 2010.
HMRC director of local compliance Richard Summersgill says: “Task forces only target people who are at high risk of breaking the rules and don’t pay the tax they owe. We know we’re going after the right people – some task forces have hit rates of 100 per cent so far.
Many of the businesses affected will be small or medium sized firms. Last month, Conservative MP Priti Patel attacked HMRC’s now abandoned plans to check the records of 20,000 small businesses. She said the idea showed a “disgraceful” attitude toward SMEs as HMRC was “blatantly doing deals” with large firms allowing them to escape millions of pounds in tax liabilities.