It has been revealed this week that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is recruiting tax inspectors from universities and accountancy firms as part of their so-called ‘tax academy’ to spot tax evaders across the UK.
Not only are investigators sifting through computer data and local newspapers for any information which could uncover businesses and entrepreneurs that are not paying enough tax on their profits, they are also taking to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook in a bid to find vital clues that may trigger an initial inquiry.
Professionals who may boast about purchasing a brand new car or packing their bags for an expensive holiday on Facebook or Twitter accounts could find themselves under investigation for tax evasion if inspectors believe there is a suspicion they are making larger profits than officially stated.
The evidence HMRC inspectors are using against firms is said to be as simple as reviewing the number of empty take-away containers outside a home.
Tax evasion penalties are purposely strict, with guilty parties having to pay back every penny owed – with interest – as well as an additional penalty of up to 100 per cent of the amount owed and, in some cases, prison sentences.
HMRC has defended its heavy-handed approach, insisting it does not waver depending on the size of the business inspected – further highlighting the importance for well-established and start-up businesses alike to keep their house in order.
An HMRC spokesman said: "We treat all taxpayers even-handedly irrespective of their size.
"Evasion is evasion and we enforce the rules irrespective of the nature of the taxpayer. We can name deliberate defaulters under specific conditions where tax over £25,000 has been deliberately evaded."