Proposed crack downs on Britain’s ‘hidden economy’

New proposals to tackle the UK’s so-called ‘hidden economy’ have been outlined by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in three consultation documents announced late last week.

The news comes after the tax authority said that the hidden economy (or ‘black economy’) is increasingly accounting for substantial economic losses.

According to HMRC, the hidden economy accounted for approximately 18 per cent of the total ‘tax gap’ in the 2013/14 financial year – when losses stood at £6.2billion.

New consultations intend to increase the tax authority’s powers to obtain customer and transaction data from money service businesses (MSBs).

They also seek to impose new requirements for customers to have their tax registration status verified before they can gain access to such services; and to explore the potential to impose new penalties on ‘hidden economy participants’.

The three consultations are titled:

  • Tackling the hidden economy: extension of data-gathering powers to money service businesses — which hopes to increase HMRC’s data-gathering powers.
  • Tackling the hidden economy: conditionality — which proposes that businesses should be registered for tax in order to access certain business services or licences.
  • Tackling the hidden economy: sanctions — which explores the potential for penalties and sanctions to be issued in order to tackle ‘hidden economy participants’.

The three documents, which will run until 21 October 2016, can be found here:

Half of businesses have “negative” experience of HMRC, survey reveals

Just half of mid-sized businesses were positive about the quality of information available to them by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), a survey reveals.

Of the companies surveyed, just 51 per cent had rated their overall experience of dealing with HMRC over the past 12 months as “positive”.

Mid-sized businesses that had only used digital means of contact (68 per cent) were more likely to be positive about their overall experience than those that had used both digital and non-digital channels (46 per cent).

With just 34 per cent of companies with 250 or more employees happy with HMRC, the survey found that businesses with significantly more workers were less likely to be positive about their overall performance.

According to the results, just 56 per cent of businesses rated HMRC’s tax transaction accuracy – the most important factor of good customer service, according to the respondents – positively.

Remarkably, just 46 per cent of mid-sized businesses expressed confidence in the way HMRC does its job.

One employer, with a business turnover of more than £10 million, said: “You struggle to get an answer to the question, which is a relatively specific question… You would expect the person at the HMRC end of the conversation to go, ‘okay, I know exactly what you mean, this is what you need to do’, or ‘this is how you would treat it’. Which as a company is frustrating because we’re trying to do the right thing but we’re not sure we’re getting good quality information.”

The full results from HMRC’s Mid-Size Business Survey 2015 can be found here.