Tax hit-squads target restaurants

Restaurant owners in the north west are being targeted by a hit squad set up by by HM Revenue to tackle tax dodgers. The move follows the government’s pledge to invest £900m to combat tax evasion, avoidance and fraud with a goal of raising an additional £7bn in revenues by 2014/15. The restaurant trade is also being targeted in London and Scotland.

Mike O’Grady, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said: “The task force will tackle rule-breakers and evaders quickly and effectively. The first task force in the north west will focus on the restaurant trade over the coming weeks. “Honest businesses have absolutely nothing to worry about. Only those who choose to break the rules or deliberately evade the tax they should be paying will be targeted.”

HMRC’s task forces comprise compliance and enforcement experts who undertake intensive bursts of activity targeting specific sectors and locations where there is evidence of high risk of tax evasion.

HMRC is likely to base its challenges around surveillance visits where diners pay cash and leave without a receipt, or where staffing numbers seem incompatible with the needs of the restaurant. Typically HMRC officers will visit each restaurant they are investigating and in many cases eat at the premises and collect data on customer numbers. Restaurateurs who have been less than honest in the past may consider using a tax amnesty to own up.

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