Tax evasion push hits middle class

MIDDLE class professionals are feeling the force of the law as the taxman aims for smaller targets. The number of prosecutions for tax evasion doubled over the last year, figures released today show.

Growing political pressure led to the crown prosecution service bringing 617 tax evasion prosecutions in the 2012-13 financial year, up from just 302 in 2011-12.

“HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is now taking criminal cases against the kind of tax evaders it would have previously seen as small time,” said Jason Collins, a tax partner at law firm Pinsent Masons.

“This means criminal cases against middle class professionals and trades people who are evading what are relatively small sums of money.”

HMRC has shown itself much more willing to propose prosecutions in cases that would previously have been dealt with through civil recovery proceedings, leaving evaders at greater risk of a criminal record and prison sentence.

One common example of tax evasion is businesses who fail to pay VAT once their turnover reaches the £79,000 threshold.

A further rise is on the cards, with outgoing director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer stating his desire to hit 1,500 tax evasion cases a year by 2014-15.

Tax evasion cases have an unusually high conviction rate of around 85 per cent.