Tax inspectors targeting Britain’s wealthiest people have identified potential evasion and avoidance worth nearly £2bn, but have pursued only one successful criminal prosecution, a National Audit Office report reveals.
The report sheds a light on the scale of potential tax avoidance involving the super-rich and will prompt further claims that Britain’s wealthiest people are not being pursued with the same vigour as benefits claimants or small businesses.
In an indication of the scale of the task faced by the unit, the report discloses that each of the 6,500 super-rich taxpayers has had on average four serious tax issues looked at by the unit. Around 4,000 inquiries have been open for more than three years, it adds.
However, just two individuals have been criminally investigated over the past five years, leading to a single prosecution, while another 70 were pursued through the civil courts.
It says the tax affairs of 6,500 super-rich individuals – each worth more than £20m – are being examined by a specialist HM Revenue and Customs unit. The unit is investigating outstanding receipts worth £1.9bn, a majority of which involve aggressive avoidance schemes.