New HMRC rules and strict tax crackdown results in 'not a single fine'

HMRC has failed to fine a single ‘enabler’ of offshore tax fraud in five years. Landmark powers to impose huge fines to tackle tax evasion and avoidance are ‘pointless’, figures released on Sunday (June 16) have revealed.

Tory ministers said new powers introduced in 2017 would allow HMRC to pursue accountants, lawyers and bankers who enable offshore tax evasion. But new figures reveal no one has been fined in the last five years under the powers.

The data was disclosed under freedom of information laws to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. “New HMRC powers are pointless if the powers aren’t then used,” said Dan Neidle, founder of the independent thinktank Tax Policy Associates and former head of tax at global law firm Clifford Chance.

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Michelle Sloane, a tax disputes partner at law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, said: “Enablers were and still are a big focus for HMRC. But these figures show their rhetoric on tackling enablers … is clearly not being followed through with action.”

An HMRC spokesperson said: “We have a strong track record in tackling offshore noncompliance. Since the launch of our ‘no safe havens’ strategy in 2019, we have secured almost £700m from offshore initiatives.”

At the time it launched the powers, the Treasury said: “While tax evasion has always been illegal, this law will mean HMRC can, for the first time, charge civil penalties on the facilitators of the tax evasion who provide planning, advice or other professional services or physically move funds offshore.”

Then- financial secretary to the Treasury Jane Ellison said: “Tax evasion is a crime and as a government we have led reform of the international tax system to root it out. Closer to home we are creating a tax system where taxes are fair, competitive and paid. The raft of measures we have introduced to tackle avoidance and evasion will create a level playing field for the vast majority of people and businesses who play fair and pay what is due.”