HMRC’s list of tax dodgers, which displays names of nine small businesses that include hairdressers and plumbing firms, has come under severe criticism with the blatant exclusion of big corporations which have deliberately defaulted UK tax over a period of many years. HMRC’s tax dodgers list showed companies receiving penalties ranging from £11,000 to almost £300,000.
On the tax authority’s website, the list of tax defaulting companies published include Cheshire wine merchant The Trade Beverage Company, fined almost £292,000; Nottingham knitware manufacturer Menemis, fined almost £87,000; Bolton coach operator Brian Clifford Tattersall, fined more than £52,000; and a plumber and hairdresser fined nearly £11,000 and over £17,000 respectively. HMRC said the list would be updated every three months.
HMRC tax dodgers list, however, garnered severe backlash and ridicule from public with Richard Murphy, of Tax Research, saying that the list was a piece of “plain, straightforward hypocrisy which was simply identifying plumbers and hairdressers when it should be naming global corporations”.
The tax owed by the nine companies named on the HMRC list amounted to less than £1 million, which is far less than the £5 billion understood to be lost every year because of aggressive tax avoidance by big corporations. Names such as Amazon, Starbucks, Google which were ridden in tax evasion scandal last year were nowhere to be seen on the HMRC tax dodgers list.
Under the new HMRC plan, called the Managing Deliberate Defaulters scheme, anyone who evades tax will also have their financial affairs watched closely for up to five years to make sure they do not re-offend. HMRC said the purpose of the whole exercise was to ensure that “everyone pays their fair share, creating a level playing field for honest people and businesses, and cracking down on the minority who seek to evade tax”.
In cases involving tax evasion of more than £25,000, HMRC has legal right to publish the names of people who have received penalties for deliberate errors in their tax returns or for deliberately failing to comply with their tax obligations, since April 2010, but this is the first time that the tax authority has used the powers.