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Tax Avoidance and Evasion

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:10 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 1:10 pm, 25th February 2020

The hon. Member picks up on a point the shadow Chancellor made in his opening remarks about the total number of staff, but the key issue is how staff are deployed and what technology we are using. I was just referring to Making Tax Digital. If tax is being filed through the Making Tax Digital platform, the number of staff that HMRC uses will change; that profile will change. We now have about 25,000 staff dedicated to tackling tax avoidance, evasion and other forms of non-compliance, and the proof of the staffing levels is reflected in the fact that we have a near record-low tax gap—far lower than for many years under the previous Labour Administration.

Since 2010, our criminal investigations have prevented the loss of more than £15 billion and resulted in more than 5,400 individuals being criminally prosecuted and convicted. In 2018-19, HMRC investigations secured nearly 650 criminal convictions for tax and duty fraud, resulting in numerous custodial sentences. HMRC has used billions of pieces of data, combined with analytics, to identify where tax is most at risk of going unpaid and to make tailored, targeted and proportionate interventions. Technology and capabilities have moved on, therefore, but, as I am sure the Financial Secretary will mention later, what continues is the dedication of staff within HMRC, who share the House’s desire to close the tax gap and ensure that people do not evade their responsibilities.