UK micro-business owners face jail in HMRC clampdown

Figures show people who work for themselves are at “increasing risk of a prison sentence or criminal record” as “low hanging fruit” in the eyes of HMRC.

Disclosed by the Revenue to Thomson Reuters, the figures behind this targeting are said to show that 1,258 people were convicted of tax evasion in 2014-15, up from just 795 a year earlier.

This means that the coalition government has convincingly beaten its self-imposed target of 1,165 prosecutions (which represented the ‘five-fold’ increase it pledged in 2010).

It also means that the ‘jail for evasion’ push that advisers warned in July that HMRC was about to make has more than been felt, seemingly by the “middle of the road businessmen” whose card was marked.

Only last week, a self-employed man from Northampton was jailed after he hid his self-employment for five years, as part of his attempt to evade £21,000 in tax and steal £32,000 in benefits.

Some media outlets are sourcing the evasion crackdown to increased funding of £60m for HMRC so that it can target serious and complex tax crime, but the increase only kicks in from 2021.

Evaders do however face the ‘strict liability’ offence and bigger fines and penalties are incoming for those who help them, alongside offences for corporations who fail to take steps to prevent evasion.