HM Revenue & Customs are conducting more property raids than ever before in an attempt to combat tax evasion.
Recent figures show that there were 500 property raids in 2013/14 which is a 12% increase on the previous year. The current figure is also more than triple the average number of property searches undertaken by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for each year between 2008 and 2011.
The increase in property search raids has been attributed to HMRC’s higher prosecution target. The HMRC’s target for 2014-15 is to prosecute 1,165 individuals for tax evasion. This figure is almost 470% higher than the HMRC’s 2010 prosecution target of 250 people. The increase also forms part of the HMRC’s hard line policy on tackling tax evasion and the deterrence of individuals from committing an offence.
This is accompanied by the recent announcement that HMRC intend to introduce new strict liability sanctions in an attempt to tackle offshore tax evasion. Under the new proposals HMRC would no longer need to prove that individuals who have undeclared income offshore intended to evade tax.
HMRC property raids are often carried out on homes and businesses in the early hours of the morning. The HMRC are no longer primarily targeting more obvious tax evading suspects with property searches increasingly being used to investigate a wider range of suspects including individuals and small businesses. During a property raid the main objective will usually be to search the property in order to seize documents and electronic devices capable of storing electronic documents or data, including mobile telephones, laptops and computer hard drives.
To conduct a search of a property HMRC or other regulatory body, such as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), must first obtain a search warrant. There have been a few cases recently that have brought to light how important it is to know your legal rights in relation to search warrants, see the Slater and Gordon blog Search Warrants: Know Your Legal Rights.
Alongside the powers to search property in relation to suspected tax evasion, HMRC also have the ability to request production orders and have the right to search individuals. Additionally some HMRC officers can exercise the power to make arrests without an arrest warrant.
Due to the complex nature of search warrants and the types of documents which may be seized, it's important for anyone who is the subject of a regulatory property search to get expert legal advice as soon as possible.
Slater and Gordon's Business Crime Lawyers have over 30 years experience and can assist both individuals and businesses if:
• You are under investigation by HMRC
• HMRC or other enforcement agency has brought proceedings against you
• You are concerned if a search warrant was properly obtained or executed.
Slater and Gordon's Business Crime Solicitors offer a free initial 30 minute consultation and are available to assist 24 hours 7 days a week.
Call freephone 0800 916 9054 or contact us online and we will call you.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Halifax, Newcastle, Wakefield, Merseyside & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.