HMRC has confirmed it is investigating 153 suspected ‘enablers of tax evasion’, including both regulated and unregulated tax advisers.
Cracking down on ‘enablers of tax evasion’ has been a key area of focus for HMRC since it established its Fraud Investigation Service in 2015.
The HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service has been given additional resources in various budgets to recruit more staff and, as a result, the number of investigations into tax fraud enablers is increasing in line with Government’s plan to prosecute many hundreds of enablers.
The definition of ‘enablers’ of tax evasion is wide and includes not just the obvious sectors such as accountancy but includes solicitors, trust and company service providers and wealth managers enabling businesses to evade tax.
Enablers fall under two categories: those who are knowingly complicit in criminal activity and those who may not be aware of their client’s involvement in criminal activity but have failed to carry out proper risk assessment and client due diligence checks.
Regulated firms should ensure that their anti-money laundering policies, controls and procedures are robust enough for any firm wide risk assessed and staff are trained as and when new risks are identified. It is important that risk assessments of clients are reviewed on a regular basis and any changes identified are properly investigated.
As authorities become better at tackling traditional methods of tax evasion, criminals are becoming increasingly dependent on assistance from enablers. This assistance includes moving assets between jurisdictions, setting up offshore structures, concealing beneficial ownership and devising arrangements to minimise profits.
The Government though its agencies is determined to clamp down hard on anyone who aids in tax crimes, not just the perpetrator themselves.