Unpaid tax crackdown: Five plumbers arrested by HMRC

Image caption Plumbers are among a number of groups of traders targeted by the HMRC

Five plumbers have been arrested by the UK tax authority during investigations into unpaid tax, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has said.

The arrests have come in addition to 500 investigations into those in the trade, as part of a targeted crackdown by HMRC.

The arrests came during raids in London, Hampshire, Surrey, Middlesex and West Bromwich.

Questions have been raised previously about the success of the campaign.


HMRC wrote to 50,000 tradespeople in the plumbing industry, warning them to pay any tax they owed or face big fines. This was a general mailshot, not the result of any specific suspicions that recipients were avoiding tax.

However, HMRC believed some registered plumbers and gas fitters in the UK were moonlighting - being paid cash in hand and failing to pay tax.

Those who came forward before a May deadline were subject to fines of up to 20% of the tax owed.

However, a series of raids by HMRC is now aimed at picking up those who did not come forward and ensure they pay what they owe. It said some investigations involved unpaid tax of up to £150,000.

"These raids and arrests of ghosts - people who have not declared income from the work they do - are the culmination of months of work by HMRC," said John Pointing of HMRC.

He said further raids were expected in the coming weeks across the UK, including in Yorkshire, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Tyne and Wear, the Midlands and South Wales.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) previously said that a lack of clear advertising to plumbers had left some in the trade unaware of the campaign, but now HMRC has stepped up the pressure.

"HMRC have had limited success with the numbers coming forward in the recent medical and plumbers disclosure opportunities, so they are getting tough with those who did not register or disclose," said Gary Ashford of the CIOT.

"People should not underestimate the amount of data that HMRC is holding. What we are now seeing is HMRC starting to use that information. The net is tightening on those who break the law."

According to the government, £45bn is lost each year through unpaid taxes in the UK. A budget of £917m has been made available to HMRC to tackle evasion and avoidance.

Previous disclosure campaigns have been targeted at doctors, dentists and, more recently, restaurant owners and staff.

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