HMRC launches scheme publicly naming tax cheats with first nine tax avoiders exposed

The idea is that the stigma of appearing on the list, to be updated every three months, will persuade those thinking of avoiding tax to pay up.

Name and shame: The list, published on the HM Revenue and Customs website today, name individuals and companies who, after investigation by the HMRC, have been discovered to fail to fully enclose what they owe.


Richard Murphy, of Tax Research, said the list was ‘plain, straightforward hypocrisy’ which was simply ‘identifying plumbers and hairdressers when it should be naming global corporations’.

‘The people named are easy targets. There are clearly different categories of tax crime, with small businesses who put cash in HMRC’s pockets named and shamed; but banks, wealthy lawyers and global corporations offered anonymity.

Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said: ‘They have named and shamed a whole lot of small and medium sized businesses.

‘That is welcome because everyone should pay their tax. But I hope that they are not letting bigger fish off of the hook.’

The tax owed by the nine on the list amounted to less than £1million – far less than the £5billion understood to be lost every year because of aggressive tax avoidance by big corporations.

Earlier this week Mrs Hodge’s committee called on HMRC to publicly list promoters of tax avoidance schemes and those who used them.
The list published yesterday by HMRC includes people who have been found guilty of evading more than £25,000 of tax.

The taxman has cracked down on smaller firms including a plumber. Other targets included a hairdress and coach operator.

They were found during investigations by the taxman after April 2010.

Treasury minister David Gauke said: ‘The publication of these names sends a clear signal that cheating on tax is wrong and reassures people who pay their taxes – the vast majority – that there are consequences for those who refuse to tell HMRC about their full liability.’

The first list features nine names, including a hairdresser, the owner of a coach firm, a wine retailer and a knitwear manufacturer.

They received fines ranging from a few thousand pounds to £291,830 for wine company The Trade Beverage Company of Mobberley in Cheshire.

Gauke said the publication of the names showed a clear signal that cheating on tax is wrong, but Margaret Hodge said she hoped the big fish were not being let off the hook.

Under the new plan, called the Managing Deliberate Defaulters scheme, anyone who evades tax will also have their financial affairs watched closely for up to five years to make sure they do not re-offend.

The crackdown was aimed at deterring would-be tax evaders. It started with letters being sent to 900 known tax dodgers warning them they will stay in the Revenue’s sights for up to the next five years.

Ordinarily, tax offenders can be fined up to 100 per cent of the tax they have not paid, plus the payment of the back taxes plus interest.

Offenders who have been trying to evade tax in some offshore jurisdictions now face fines of up to 200 per cent of their unpaid tax. HMRC has the option of prosecuting the worst offenders, which can lead to them being sent to jail if convicted.

In order for someone to be named on the website, they must have failed to fully disclose what they owed at the outset.
HMRC can publish defaulters’ names for a year and within 12 months of the penalty becoming final. Details are published only once all appeal routes have been exhausted.