News: 26th February 2013

HMRC steps up fight against tax fraud

HMRC steps up fight against tax fraudHM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has turned its attention to social media in a bid to fight tax fraud in the UK.

HMRC is currently trawling the internet, including various social network sites, to find evidence of tax fraud that can then be fed into its new Connect data warehouse.

In an interview with Computing.co.uk, Mike Hainey, the Head of Analytics at HMRC, explained the value of the organisation's new analytics system in exposing wrongdoers.

"[It's] information that we can obtain that is visible and available legally for HMRC to review," he explained.

Popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter often reveal information pertaining to where traders ply their trade, which could lead to a prosecution.

HMRC is trawling the internet in search of this type of evidence that could support its Enforcement and Compliance organisation.

"It's departmental data at one end of the spectrum, commercial data, buying in information around businesses et cetera," Mr Hainey remarked. "We also get information from other government departments and other foreign FISCs [fiscal regimes] through various treaties and arrangements."

On occasions, he added, HMRC will bring in "information that we may obtain from the internet and bring that into the picture".

This approach should help to supplement the work of HMRC's Connect analytics system, which won the prize for Best Big Data Project at the UK IT Industry Awards in November 2012.

The overarching aim behind the recent changes is to help HMRC build a fuller picture of the taxpaying public.

Earlier this month, HMRC took the bold decision to publish the names of deliberate tax avoiders, arguing that it should deter people from committing fraud.

Ultimately, it hopes that this will lead to a level playing field where everyone pays their fair share of tax and also make it easier to target the minority who look to evade tax.

According to David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, the move sends out a strong message to anyone thinking they can escape punishment.

Posted by Jacob Williams


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