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HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have recently set up a taskforce to investigate under-declarations of tax in the restaurant trade. The taskforce is one of a number of specialist teams set up to tackle tax evasion in specific industries. HMRC are aiming to raise an additional £7 billion in tax each year by 2014/15 through combating tax evasion and fraud.
The taskforce initially focused on restaurant businesses in London, but restaurants in the North West and Scotland are now also being investigated. So far, HMRC have launched investigations into more than 500 restaurant businesses. 45 of these have been settled, yielding more than £630,000 in additional tax, and 22 of the restaurants concerned now face the possibility of criminal prosecution.
Areas of concern to HMRC are likely to include taxes on profits, VAT on takings, and Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions on employees’ tips.
Despite the well-publicised ‘tax amnesties’ in recent years, such as that for holders of offshore bank accounts, HMRC are taking an increasingly tough line on tax evasion. Those caught evading tax may have to pay substantial interest and penalties in addition to the tax due. Serious cases may result in criminal prosecution. Funds on which tax has not been paid may be confiscated as ‘criminal assets’ under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and those who handle such funds also run the risk of breaching anti-money-laundering legislation.