4 Sep 2013 11:18am

HMRC given credit card records

HMRC has stepped up its fight against tax evasion after it was granted powers to access credit and debit card records paid to UK business dating back four years

The legislation, which was announced by George Osborne in the March Budget and is effective from 1 Septembert, will bring in an additional £50m a year, HMRC estimates.

No personal data, such as cardholder information or card numbers, will be collected, the Revenue says, but it will be able to acquire information relating to the number and value of transactions completed by any individual trader.

HMRC says it will analyse the data by cross-referencing and comparing with information the tax authority already holds to flag up and subsequently investigate noticeable differences. It says it has worked closely with international tax authorities – many of which have already had success in reducing evasion from access to such data.

Exchequer secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said, “Tax evasion and the hidden economy cost the taxpayer £9bn a year. While the majority of traders are honest, they may find themselves undercut by the minority who seek to lower prices by cheating the tax system.

“The government has given HMRC nearly £1bn to tackle fraud and evasion, and these new powers give HMRC an extra tool to ensure a level playing field between businesses, and also reducing opportunities for those who try and cheat the system.”

The first requests for the data will be sent to merchant acquirers this week and from next year this will be an annual request.

In addition, HMRC is launching an evasion publicity campaign this week, through a series of targeted advertisements including radio and over 3,000 billboards in public areas.

It is the latest in a series of steps in a consistently more aggressive approach by HMRC. Since extra funding was announced in the 2010 Budget to enable HMRC to tackle tax avoidance and tax evasion, the number of arrests for tax fraud has increased by 44%. In April, it was revealed HMRC saw a 53% increase in prosecutions for tax fraud year on year.

Raymond Doherty


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