The tax man is set to restart enquiries into potential tax evasion this week, having temporarily stopped in mid-April due to the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, and is said to be planning on looking into such high crimes as people working whilst furloughed or selling items on eBay as we wrote about last week.
Now that things appear to be slowly returning to a degree of normality, HMRC will be looking into people’s financial dealings with a greater eagerness than ever, as they attempt to claw back a portion of the hundreds of millions paid to people as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and other aid packages, and in lost revenue due to the massive economic slow down.
The Telegraph reported last week that a confidential Treasury document had estimated the crisis would cost the government £300 million, with new claims for Universal Credit reaching a record high of 1.5 million claims between 13 March and 9 April according to the BBC, and the county facing the biggest economic crisis in a generation, there’s no doubt HMRC will be facing immense pressure from the government to come up with some hard cash.
HMRC had paused investigations for the length of the lockdown, and had stopped pressing for responses to requests or asking for new information or documents, ostensibly to give taxpayers some breathing room during unprecedented and difficult times, perhaps more likely due to issues around their own staffing, but will soon be working harder than ever to entrap and criminalise taxpayers.
Rather than showing common sense and the empathy one might expect for taxpayers who have made some effort to take care of themselves financially during the lockdown, by selling unwanted second hand goods on the internet to scrape together some hard won extra money, HMRC have been reported as being on the lookout for anyone who might have been making a profit by trading on websites like eBay or Gumtree, or who might have been working in second jobs whilst on furlough and in receipt of stimulus payments from the government, despite the fact that, due to the absurd rules of the CJRS, this is perfectly permissible where working for the main employer while on furlough has not been!
To add to the irony, this is all changing from 1 July when employees on furlough will be allowed to work for their employers, albeit with the requirement to record the hours they work and don’t work. No doubt this tricky piece of administration will be further grist to the mill of the HMRC investigators.
It may be amusing to imagine HMRC apparatchiks with nothing better to do, sitting at computers and trawling through the second hand listings online while making detailed notes, it may be less funny for those caught out in this way when they find themselves targeted for what are probably, at worst, relatively minor tax infractions. HMRC have already begun to contact taxpayers under investigation, to inform them that inquiries will be restarting.
Feel free to contact us if you are worried about any action, or potential actions, by HMRC. We will be able to re-assure you and, if needed, we can help you meet any legal requirements. If you have an ongoing investigation or dispute with HMRC, we can help you get it resolved and will fight your corner vigorously.
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