Not only has the number of raids in conjunction with investigations risen from 500 in 2013/14, to 593 in 2014/15, it has trebled in the last four years.
The upward trend reflects the “intense pressure” being placed on HMRC to secure more criminal prosecutions for tax evasion, according to law firm Pinsent Masons. In 2013, the Government set the Revenue a target to secure 1,165 in 2014/15, up from the 165 obtained in 2010/11.
Paul Noble, tax director at Pinsent Masons, said raids are labour-intensive but needed in certain investigations. “A non-criminal tax inquiry is much more cost-effective but does not always send the deterrent message HMRC wish to convey.”
He added, “An increase in the number of raids conducted and custodial sentences meted out reflect the fact that HMRC is casting its net wider. It is no longer focusing narrowly on HNWIs and those guilty of the most serious evasion. It is targeting a broad range of taxpayers and refusing to let those suspected of more minor offences slip through the cracks.”
The total number of tax evaders given a custodial sentence has risen by around 30% over the last four years, from 171 in 2011 to 220 in 2014.
Meanwhile, the average sentence length has fallen by around 60% over the same period, from 41.3 months in 2011, to 17.7 months in 2014, said the firm.