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HMRC making fewer tax avoidance deals

HMRC is entering into fewer agreements that give immunity from prosecution for tax evasion in exchange for paying back taxes and penalties, according to research by law firm Pinsent Masons.

The number of agreements entered into by HMRC under the ‘Contractual Disclosure Facility’ fell by 10% to 438 in the 2018/19 tax year. This is down from 486 during 2017/18, and 20% lower than the figure of 549 recorded in 2016/17.

Pinsent Masons says that the growing volume of data held by HMRC on taxpayers’ offshore savings and investments has reduced its need to enter into plea bargain agreements. The data HMRC now has on overseas savings and investments enables it to more easily build a case against taxpayers and prosecute them, the law firm added.

HMRC has received information on 5.7 million offshore bank accounts held by UK taxpayers since the introduction of the Common Reporting Standard and other data sharing facilities.

Commenting on the findings, Steven Porter, Partner at Pinsent Masons, said: ‘HMRC has a growing stack of individuals that it is confident it can prosecute. That means it is less enthusiastic or even willing to offer plea bargain agreements.

‘Plea bargain agreements have become increasingly popular with taxpayers in recent years. In the past, only those with very large tax exposures used these agreements, but now those who owe much smaller sums are applying for them.’

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