More tax evaders are going to prison… but they’re serving less time

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

The issue of tax evasion was a large presence in the election, being mentioned in almost every interview and debate by almost all parties.

Politicians all claimed they’d save the UK some money by clamping down on the problem – but how well do we currently tackle it?

According to HMRC data, it seems we’re getting better at catching tax evaders, however, those who are caught are doing much less time in the slammer than they were three years ago.

The number of tax evaders jailed has risen by 29% over that time, from 171 in 2011 to 220 in 2014.

However, sentences have got lighter, with time served at her majesty’s pleasure falling by 57%, from 41.3 months in 2011 to 17.7 months last year.

Lawyers have suggested the rise in prosecutions is down to pushing through more marginal cases.

Fiona Fernie, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons told the Financial Times: “HMRC wants to make examples of tax evaders by sending more of them to prison. It is no longer focusing narrowly on the very wealthiest culprits, guilty of the most serious evasion. It is clamping down on tax evaders from all walks of life and adopting a much more aggressive stance when it comes to pushing for criminal sanctions.”

HMRC said: “HMRC takes all tax evasion seriously. Last year we brought in over £16bn in extra tax from proactively enforcing the rules. More than 1,100 charging decisions were made in our favour as part of our commitment to honest taxpayers.”

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Readers' comments (1)


  • I would love to know the average amount of tax evaded by the people who are actually prosecuted and sent to prison.

    I'd be willing to bet that it is the minor dodgers that are jailed, to make the figures look good while the really big tax dodgers are given knighthoods and MBEs, and the crooked bankers that help them do it are given jobs in the Cabinet.

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