Threat of prosecution looms for North-east tradesmen

Plumbers, gas fitters and heating engineers in the Garioch and Formartine are being warned by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that they have one month in which to tell (HMRC) about tax that they owe, and are being asked to make arrangements to pay any interest and penalties due by August 31.

Tradesmen in this sector were offered a special tax plan to rectify their tax affairs in March this year after which HMRC began to clamp down on those who have chosen not to come forward and take advantage of the Plumbers Tax Safe Plan (PTSP).

Since June, HMRC has opened investigations to single out the people who have failed to come forward, who, they say may face penalties or prosecution.

Once this disclosure opportunity closes on August 31, taxpayers who have not come forward but have unpaid tax liabilities will face higher penalties, rising to 100 per cent of the tax evaded or, potentially, criminal proceedings.

Under the PTSP, plumbers, gas fitters, heating engineers and members of associated trades who owed tax that they had not declared faced a penalty rate from ten per cent up to a maximum of 20 per cent and have until August 31 to arrange for payment.

HMRC has left the PTSP disclosure route open for those in the plumbing industry with unpaid tax who still wish to come forward voluntarily, although they may not receive exactly the same terms as under the Plumbers Plan. Mike Wells, HMRC’s Director of Risk and Intelligence, said: “Plumbers who have notified us of their intention to disclose now have until the end of August to tell us what they owe and make arrangements to pay.

“We are determined to ensure everyone pays their fair share and, since May 31, have begun a series of enquiries targeting people in the plumbing industry. More than 600 will be under way by the end of this month, with many more to follow.

“We have left the PTSP disclosure route open and I urge anyone with unpaid tax to use it to come forward and avoid potentially lengthy and costly investigations. The penalty they will pay will still be lower than when HMRC catches up with them.”

To disclose unpaid tax and make payments, plumbers and heating engineers should visit www.hmrc.gov.uk/plumberstaxsafeplan, or ring HMRC on 0845 600 4507.

HMRC campaigns have so far raised more than £500m from voluntary disclosures and a further £100m from follow-up investigations. Campaigns have targeted offshore investments, medical professionals and those trading above the VAT

HMRC has used legal notices and new technology to gather and analyse data from industry bodies, tax records, advertising directories and Health and Safety prosecutions. This detailed information has been used to contact and then pursue people who should come forward and use the PTSP. Anyone HMRC catches up with who could have used the PTSP is likely to face greater costs than if they came forward voluntarily, as well as running the risk of prosecution.

The terms being made available during this window are in line with those HMRC offers for any full, accurate, unprompted voluntary disclosure of tax liabilities. HMRC has consulted Low Income Reform Group, Tax Aid, the Citizens Advice Bureau and accountancy representatives.