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Tax avoidance crackdown nets £494m

By Staff Reporter

Probes by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) into tax avoidance schemes raked in an additional £494m in income tax for Treasury coffers last year, figures from law firm Pinsent Masons show.

HMRC has stepped up its investigations after several public figures, including actors, were named as beneficiaries of tax avoidance measures.

Paul Noble, tax director at Pinsent Masons, said: "HMRC has had a number of high-profile wins in tackling tax avoidance, with some of the UK's most famous faces suffering intense public scrutiny for their supposed involvement.

"Returns from investigations have been healthy this year, and HMRC will likely want to build on this success.

"High net worth individuals and other wealthy taxpayers are likely to face further scrutiny as a result - both here and abroad."

In 2014 a new Counter Avoidance Directorate was created which, Pinsent Masons said, has "significantly sharpened HMRC's abilities to target schemes which it deems are avoidance".

The unit has been given several powers to expedite its work, including requiring upfront payment of the tax under question within 90 days.

A recent HMRC survey of more than 1,000 people found that 63% believed use of tax avoidance schemes is still widespread. A similar number said use of such schemes was "never acceptable".

Almost two-fifths of participants said they felt HMRC is putting "too little effort" into reducing tax avoidance schemes.

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