HMRC tells accountants it's business as usual for routine tax planning

Hayley Kirton
Follow Hayley
General Views Of Government Ministries Around Westminster
Routine tax planning may be fine, said RSM, "but the gloves are off when it comes to aggressive or artificial tax avoidance" (Source: Getty)

The taxman has written to a leading accountancy firm to reassure it that it's business as usual for routine tax planning.

Accountancy firm RSM, which has offices in the City, previously wrote in its weekly tax bulletin that it was concerned about a report that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) had published in May. The report mentioned that the taxman would aim raise £5bn extra a year by 2019-20 by tackling tax avoidance, evasion, compliance issues and tax planning.

While the firm remarked that the first three items on the hit list were to be expected, it was concerned that the fourth might mark the beginning of a crack down on legitimate tax planning.

However, in a later newsletter, published yesterday, RSM revealed that HMRC had written to it to put its mind at ease, reassuring the firm that it was not about to go heavy handed on routine planning.

Read more: Millions of people could have paid the wrong amount of tax

"There is no change to the normal, everyday use of tax reliefs as intended by parliament," read HMRC's letter. "Tax reliefs are in place to encourage certain actions such as building up a pension pot, investing in your business or saving for a rainy day and that is overwhelmingly how they work.

"But, when reliefs are manipulated in a way the law does not intend, to achieve an unfair tax advantage it is only right that HMRC steps in on behalf of the vast majority of taxpayers who play by the rules."

George Bull, senior tax partner at RSM, wrote: "It’s good to hear that, so far as HMRC are concerned, it's very much 'business as usual' for routine tax planning. But the gloves are off when it comes to aggressive or artificial tax avoidance."

Read more: HMRC seeks views on new tax evasion laws

HMRC has been doing pretty well at pocketing the tax it's due as of late. In tax year 2014-15, the taxman's compliance efforts raised it £26.6bn that would have otherwise gone uncollected.

However, not everybody impressed. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) slammed HMRC in a report in April for failing to make progress on tackling tax fraud, which it is thought costs the agency £16bn a year in uncollected revenue.

And, in a report released last November, the PAC called the number of prosecutions HMRC had made for offshore tax evasion "woefully inadequate", pointing out that there had been just 11 since 2010.