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HMRC’s 60,000 APNs ‘Have Brought In £3bn Since 2014’

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HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has collected roughly £3 billion as a result of sending out close to 60,000 Accelerated Payment Notices (APNs) over the past two years.

That’s according to the Treasury, which has welcomed the figures as an indication of the success of its APN system, which was introduced in 2014 as a means of clamping down on tax avoidance.

APNs essentially demand that businesses and individuals pay upfront tax amounts that they are deemed to be liable for, even where the matter is in dispute and being investigated by HMRC.

The notices demand that specified tax amounts are paid within a period of no more than 90 days of an APN being issued.

“I’m delighted to announce that we’ve collected £3 billion upfront since 2014 from people using avoidance schemes as HMRC puts its new powers to use,” said Jane Ellison, financial secretary to the Treasury.

“We’re determined to change the economics of tax avoidance by making it harder for the dishonest minority to cheat the system - collecting disputed tax upfront and tough new sanctions for enablers of tax avoidance will mean people will think twice,” she said.

Although framed by the government and by HMRC as being a mechanism for clamping down on and deterring tax avoidance, APNs have proven controversial in some quarters.

Some business operators and their legal representatives have suggested that the demands for upfront payment of disputed tax amounts put serious pressure on the finances of individuals and companies without giving them a proper opportunity to explain why they don’t believe the disputed amounts ought to be paid.

In January of this year, it was revealed that thousands of banking and IT contractors were to be repaid significant sums of money that HMRC had wrongly demanded of them via APNs in 2015.

Nonetheless, the Treasury is committed to deploying APNs as a means of boosting HMRC’s annual takings, pointing out that around 90 per cent of avoidance cases taken to court conclude with rulings in favour of the UK’s tax-gathering body.

“Accelerated payment notices are at the forefront of the government’s drive to tackle tax avoidance schemes,” said Jennie Granger, HMRC’s director general for enforcement and compliance in a recent statement.

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