‘These arrests are just the start,’ said a senior HMRC official as the department announced the arrest of five plumbers in London, Hampshire, Surrey, Middlesex and the West Midlands.
Earlier this month HMRC said more than 600 civil investigations targeting people in the plumbing industry would be under way by the time the Plumbers Tax Safe Plan disclosure opportunity closes on 31 August.
‘People should not underestimate the amount of data that HMRC is holding,’ said Gary Ashford, who represents the CIOT on HMRC’s Compliance Reform Forum.
‘What we are now seeing is HMRC starting to use that information. The net is tightening on those who break the law.’
More raids are expected to take place over the coming weeks across the UK, HMRC said, including Yorkshire, Kent, the Midlands and South Wales.
‘These raids and arrests of “ghosts” – people who have not declared income from the work they do – are the culmination of months of work by HMRC,’ said John Pointing, Assistant Director, HMRC Criminal Investigation. ‘
‘We provided a chance for those we have arrested, and the 600 we are investigating, to come forward voluntarily and put things right. These arrests send a clear message that HMRC will take action against those who choose not to come forward and pay the tax they owe.’
Mike Wells, Director, HMRC Risk & Intelligence Service, said: ‘These arrests are just the start. HMRC is considering hundreds of further cases for criminal investigation in the plumbing and medical professions. Some people may have thought we were bluffing when we said we have information that we will use to prosecute tax evasion.’
The terms guaranteed under the Plumbers Tax Safe Plan are no longer on offer, but the PTSP disclosure route remains open for ‘those in the plumbing industry who have unpaid tax to disclose but who have still not come forward’. Further guidance is available on the HMRC website.