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HMRC has managed to greatly increase its tax take from wealthy UK individuals.

09/02/15

HM Revenue and Customs has claimed success in a new drive to recover unpaid tax, a new report has revealed.

Written by legal firm Pinsent Masons, it showed the tax authorities managed to recover 60 per cent more revenue from what are described as "mass affluent" people.

The affluent unit at HMRC covers those with incomes of more than £150,000 a year or wealth over £1 million and it managed to raise £137.2 million from this group last year, compared with only £85.7 million in 2013.

Around half a million Britons fall under its remit and the unit has been greatly expanded under the current government, with manpower doubled in 2013 as another 100 tax inspectors were taken on.

Pinsent Mason's head of litigation and compliance James Bullock said: "This surge in extra revenue from Affluent Unit tax investigations serves as a reminder that HMRC is widening its lines of inquiry.

"People who would just consider themselves moderately successful professionals and business people are now also coming under the scrutiny of HMRC's specialist units."

The success in raising more tax has clearly arisen from "a much more aggressive approach to prosecutions targeted at professionals and entrepreneurs", he concluded.

However, critics may contend that yet more can be done and argue for more recruitment of tax experts in order to make further inroads into non-payment and bring in yet more revenue.

Indeed, there may be pressure on politicians to pledge such measures in the run-up to May's general election.

There have certainly been some very high-profile cases of wealthy individuals coming under scrutiny for tax evasion in recent years, such as comedian Jimmy Carr and singer Gary Barlow.

However, much of the focus could also be on the tax bills of multinationals that have used all kinds of ingenious devices to avoid paying corporation tax.

Tech firms are particularly notable for this, a point noted by Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

He told a BBC-hosted event at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week that the tax bills of such firms are "very small relative to the returns".

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