Taxpayer arrests fall to five-year low

An RPC report has found that arrests made by the HMRC have fallen to a five-year low.

The firm said that only 782 taxpayer arrests were made last year, which marks an 11% reduction from the 877 arrests made in 2017/18. 

It said that this fall may signify the HMRC “taking a less aggressive approach after being hit with a number of ‘wrongful arrest’ claims brought by taxpayers”.

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.”

“If HMRC has taken that criticism on board, and is now being more thorough before deciding to make an arrest then that is to be welcomed.”

He added: “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. 

“HMRC must therefore ensure it is exercising proper diligence and acting in accordance with the law when arresting someone.”

HMRC was given the power of arrest following a merger with Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise in 2005. Now, over 1,500 HMRC officers have the ability to arrest individuals for suspected tax offences.

However, the RPC warn that HMRC must follow certain conditions laid out by Parliament in order for the arrest to be lawful. 

It said: “Typically, a taxpayer who is under investigation for tax evasion will agree to attend a voluntary interview under caution with HMRC. In such circumstances, where the taxpayer is cooperating, HMRC should not ordinarily exercise their power of arrest.”

Craggs added: “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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