Previously invisible tax evaders are to be traced online by HM Revenue and Customs, which has announced plans for the introduction of “cutting-edge” tools over the next year.
Outlining a number of new campaigns to target VAT defaulters, private tutors and e-marketplaces, HMRC said it intended to use “web root” software to search the internet and accurately pinpoint people who have failed to pay the right amount of tax.
Web root is to be used alongside the department’s Connect computer system, which finds tax evaders by matching third party data with the vast amounts held by HMRC.
HMRC said the web root tools would find targeted information about specific companies and individuals, adding that before it designed and launched its campaigns, input from interested parties would be sought.
Mike Wells, HMRC’s director of risk and intelligence, said: “We want to make sure HMRC listens to as many informed views as possible for our future campaigns. We want the views and experience of people and organisations outside the department to play a fuller part in the campaigns that we design for customers.
“By being open about our areas of interest for the coming year we hope to maximise that exchange of information and ensure we reduce the tax gap and help customers pay what they owe.
“We will use the information we gather to pursue people who choose not to use the opportunities we provide for them to put their affairs in order on the best possible terms. It will be more expensive if we come and find people, so I urge them to come forward and disclose voluntarily.”
HMRC also detailed plans to target people trading through e-marketplaces who failed to pay tax, but the department said this was unlikely to affect those only selling a few items.