HMRC's anonymous tax evasion hotline takes 300 calls a day

18th June 2013 | News

The anonymous hotline set up to enable members of the public to inform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of potential tax evaders has received more than 300 calls a day in the past 12 months.
 
According to a freedom of information request by Bloomsbury Professional, a legal and tax book publisher, HMRC received 72,000 calls in the last year.
 
Martin Casimir, managing director of Bloomsbury Professional, believes the high number of anonymous tip-offs reflects an increased public awareness and discontent regarding tax evasion.
 
"The sheer volume of calls to the hotline is astounding. People are clearly keen to ensure that no one cheats the tax system and that everybody pays their fair share," he said.
 
"For many people, wages have flat-lined in real terms over the past few years while at the same time the tax burden has increased.
 
"That makes them especially indignant and motivated to call the helpline if they suspect tax evasion."
 
Nevertheless, HMRC would not disclose how many of those calls received have led to successful prosecutions of tax evasion. Indeed there are question marks surrounding whether HMRC has the resources to even attend to the multiple complaints it receives, with Mr Casimir suggesting HMRC is "already [running] on a stretched budget".
 
The National Audit Office (NAO) has even identified the hotline as being the least cost-effective means of detecting tax evaders.
 
The service yields just twice the amount of money that it costs to operate, although the most recent data relates to tax collected after tip-offs received back in 2006. In that year just £2.6m was collected from the dedicated hotline, significantly lower than the initial estimate of £32.5m.
 
In reality, further investigation can lead to additional income tax being paid, but the sums are relatively small and in many cases the information given by anonymous callers is simply not enough for the HMRC follow up.
 
Adam Craggs, a tax partner at law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, said: "The vast majority of people who phone up do not give sufficient information for HMRC to be able to take further action."