Friday, June 27, 2008

Malicious hotline calls disappoint HMRC

The taxman’s new evasion hotline has been flooded with calls making malicious and unfounded allegations, MPs have been told. Dave Hartnett, acting Chairman of HM Revenue & Customs, said he was “disappointed by the quality” of calls to the line aimed at catching tax cheats, but added that the call figures for the current year showed an improvement.

One woman made 68 calls to report her husband, none of which resulted in an investigation, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee was told. The all-party committee of MPs was told that 28,000 people were investigated each year for tax evasion. Hartnett denied claims by chairman Edward Leigh that the chances of their being caught were “virtually nil”. “We are getting better and better at catching people,” Hartnett argued. However, he conceded that only two cases per thousand were successfully prosecuted. “It is a low number and we do have plans to increase it,” he said.

He added that since it had been set up, the tax evasion hotline had received 120,000 calls, resulting in 2,000 completed investigations. But according to a National Audit Office report, the hotline had proved the least cost-effective tax fraud detection method. The tax retrieved by the hotline amounted to just double the cost of operating it, the committee was told.

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