HMRC Slams UK Politician’s Tax Report for ‘Selective and Misleading Figures’ (Photo: Reuters)
HMRC Slams UK Politician’s Tax Report for ‘Selective and Misleading Figures’ (Photo: Reuters)

HM Revenue and Customs has hit back at the Public Accounts Committee's annual tax report that claims Britain's tax authority is too lenient towards big business.

In a public statement, HMRC said it "strongly disputes the conclusions in the PAC report and challenges the Committee's selective and misleading use of figures," after the panel of politicians said that the taxman is too corporate-friendly and, as a result, the UK is losing billions of pounds worth of extra tax collection.

"HMRC seeks to collect the tax that is due from all taxpayers, so that everyone pays their fair share in accordance with the tax laws passed by Parliament," said HMRC.

"We have secured more than £50bn (€60bn, $82bn) of additional tax from our compliance work since 2010, including £23bn from large businesses."

In PAC's report, it claimed that HMRC massively over-estimated how much it would collect from UK holders of Swiss bank accounts, and in 2013-14 has so far collected only £440m of the £3.12bn predicted in the 2012 Autumn Statement.

Margaret Hodge
PAC chair Margaret Hodge has grilled HMRC over tax avoidance and evasion in the past (Photo: Reuters)

"HMRC is not doing enough to collect tax credits debt or to tackle tax credit error and fraud," it added.

"In pursuing unpaid tax, HMRC has not clearly demonstrated that it is on the side of the majority of taxpayers who pay their taxes in full.

"It does not use the full range of sanctions at its disposal to pursue vigorously all unpaid tax, and its measure of the tax gap does not capture all the avoided tax that it should be collecting."

However, HMRC has vehemently denied the allegations and said it has pursued a number of businesses through the courts for tax avoidance and evasion.

"We have carried out 2,345 prosecutions for tax evasion in the last three years, including of high-profile accountants and lawyers, have halved the number of disclosed tax avoidance schemes and have protected more than £2.4bn from marketed tax avoidance schemes this year alone," said HMRC.

HMRC is responsible for collecting UK taxes and duties from businesses and individuals and providing financial support to taxpayers through tax credits.

It says that it aims to deliver three "strategic priorities": to improve customer service; to reduce operating costs; and to reinvest money from its efficiency savings to generate increased tax revenue.

Despite the strong criticism from PAC, the group is unable to force HMRC to change its policies.

"HMRC can only bring in the tax that is due under the law and we cannot collect what is not legally due, however much the Committee might want us to," said HMRC.

"The Public Accounts Committee already knows that we cannot prosecute multinational companies for activities that are lawful within the international tax framework and has itself acknowledged that the kinds of international tax planning by large businesses that it has reviewed are lawful.

"We do not hesitate to take large businesses to court if necessary to secure the tax they owe and would consider prosecution in any case where we suspect that we have been misled or information had been withheld from us. We secured eight court wins against large businesses in the first half of this year alone, protecting over £1bn of tax from avoidance."