In the aftermath of the Panama Papers scandal, MPs from the Public Accounts Committee provided a damning indictment of HMRC’s performance in tackling tax evasion. With losses from tax fraud at a staggering £16 billion and a tax gap of £32 million, HMRC faced fierce criticism for letting “big multinationals off the hook” and leaving “an impression that the rich can get away with tax fraud.”
In response, HMRC announced a renewed focus on investigations into serious and complex tax crime with a promise to prosecute 100 wealthy individuals and corporates by 2020. Given that HMRC has long held ambitions to clamp down on the enablers and facilitators of tax evasion and to hold corporates to account, one could be forgiven for wondering whether this pledge had more bark than bite.
However, there is no doubt that landmark legislation contained in the Criminal Finances Act 2017 has potential to provide the tonic