Research by the accountancy group has shown that the HMRC opened 102,000 compliance investigations in Q1 2021, up 36% from 75,000 in the previous quarter and almost quadruple the low of 27,000 in the second quarter of 2020.
UHY said that the amount of extra revenue HMRC brought in from its compliance activity rose 29% to £14.2bn in Q1 2021, an increase from £11bn in the same period in 2020.
Graham Boar, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said that the pandemic has left the tax authority with “a lot of catching up to do”.
He said: “HMRC’s resources have been stretched during the pandemic, while it has also taken a more lenient approach towards taxpayers. That now appears to be ending.
“Taxpayers with skeletons in the closet should be aware that they are at risk of investigations, fines and even prison sentences. It would be favourable for individuals with unpaid tax to approach HMRC first before they come knocking.”
An HMRC spokesperson added: “As with many of our activities, we have reprioritised our compliance work to focus primarily on the work which supports and protects individuals, businesses and the economy during this extremely difficult time. We recognise this is a uniquely challenging period for many of our customers.
“Our priority has been to deliver the government support that aims to protect people’s livelihoods and help businesses get through this difficult time financially.”