The Chancellor’s Budget seemed to be mostly a PR exercise with headline policies focused on getting us all working, such as free childcare and initiatives to support the employment prospects of people with disabilities and long-term health issues. Despite all the good news, we were disappointed that the self-employed and temporary workforce seemed largely forgotten, with one exception – the plan to imprison promoters of tax avoidance schemes.
The announcement got a very brief mention in the first half of Jeremy Hunt’s speech “and we will bring forward a range of measures to tackle promoters of tax avoidance schemes.”
So what does this actually mean? The budget documents stated:
“The government will double the maximum sentences for the most egregious cases of tax fraud from 7 to 14 years, and will consult shortly on the introduction of a new criminal offence for promoters of tax avoidance who fail to comply with a legal notice from HMRC to stop promoting a tax avoidance scheme. The government is also investing a further £47.2 million to improve HMRC’s capability to collect tax debts, including supporting those who are temporarily unable to pay.”
There will soon be a consultation on the proposed new criminal offence for promoters of tax avoidance who fail to comply with a stop notice from HMRC. The idea being that the fewer schemes being promoted, then fewer people can be duped into them.
Whilst this is certainly good news, more could and should be done.
We also need strong action against those who recommend tax avoidance to innocent victims and receive enormous backhanders for doing so. Without any accountability they can simply continue referring their workers to whoever pays the highest financial ‘incentive’. And by virtue of not being compliant, it is the schemes that can afford to pay the most.
In addition, we should spare a thought for the many thousands of loan charge victims, for whom this policy comes far too late.