Tax evasion arrests fall after HMRC criticism


Arrests for suspected tax evasion fell by 11 per cent this year after criticism of HM Revenue & Customs for being heavy-handed in the past.

The number has fallen every year for four years, with 782 arrests made in the 12 months to March 2019, compared with 877 a year earlier. In 2015-16, 1,072 people were arrested.

Adam Craggs, partner at RPC, a professional services firm, said that there had been some criticism of the taxman for being too “trigger happy” in the past, and added: “Fewer arrests could be a sign that HMRC is now exercising its powers of arrest more responsibly and in accordance with the law.” He said that if it had taken criticism on board and was “being more thorough before deciding to make an arrest”, that was to be welcomed.

The tax authority said that the year-on-year figures should not be compared. “They simply reflect when particular investigations, some of which can be years in the making, reach a particular point — in this case arrest,” a spokesman said. It focused on “the most severe cases, those where we need to send a strong deterrent message and those where civil sanctions alone won’t work”. There had been 648 convictions for tax and duty fraud in the current tax year, it said, with the HMRC successful in nine of ten criminal cases it brought to trial.