HMRC less ‘trigger happy’ on taxpayer arrests

The number of taxpayer arrests for suspected tax evasion has fallen to a five-year low, according to analysis by RPC which suggests a number of wrongful arrest claims against HMRC may be behind the decline

The law firm says there was an 11% reduction in the number of HMRC arrests last year, compared to 877 made in 2017/18.  Arrests topped the 1,000 mark in each of the preceding three years.

Adam Craggs, partner at RPC, said: ‘There has been some criticism of HMRC for being too “trigger happy” in the past – fewer arrests could be a sign that HMRC is now exercising its powers of arrest more responsibly and in accordance with the law.’

HMRC was given the power of arrest following the merger of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise in 2005 – originally only customs officers had a power of arrest. HMRC now has over 1,500 officers with the ability to arrest a person, provided certain conditions have been satisfied.

Craggs said: ‘Being arrested can have a seriously detrimental effect on a person's life. They are likely to face difficulty obtaining a visa to travel to certain countries and it may well have employment implications, for example, if they work in financial services.

‘It is to be hoped that the fall in HMRC arrests is as a consequence of HMRC having a better understanding of their power of arrest and when it is appropriate to exercise that power. Getting it wrong can be costly for HMRC.’

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