Written by: Keith Tully
Reviewed: Wednesday 30th August, 2017
Big businesses from across the UK are estimated to have potentially underpaid their taxes to a value close to £25 billion.
According to figures from HMRC and the assessments of the law firm Pinsent Masons, the scale of taxes potentially going underpaid increased by roughly 13 per cent during the year to March 2017.
Current trends point towards significant rises in the scale of potentially underpaid taxes among big firms, with the latest annualised numbers up 31 per cent as compared with the same figure for two years ago.
Experts have said that rises in the overall ‘underpaid taxes’ figure reflects a sharpened focus within HMRC on pursuing big companies for all money that they could potentially owe.
That focus has been led recently by HMRC’s Large Business Directory, which is seen to be clamping down on tax avoidance or underpayment while being put under considerable pressure to do so by the government and the Treasury.
The government has proposed a variety of measures designed to prevent and deter big businesses from avoiding taxes in recent months and ministers have repeatedly emphasised their commitment to clamping down on underpayment of corporate taxes in recent years.
“Another £3bn rise in the tax HMRC is querying shows that HMRC is broadening its horizons and putting a far wider range of transactions under scrutiny,” said Heather Self from Pinsent Masons.
“We are seeing an increasing number of challenges to arrangements that would previously have been regarded as routine and perfectly acceptable,” she added.
HMRC has stressed that the figure of £24.8 billion refers to amounts of money that could potentially be owed if it did not carry out any investigations into the tax affairs of big businesses.
The potential underpayment figure is an estimate and is not intended to show precisely how much money is owed to HMRC by large companies.
However, the UK’s main tax-gathering body has been keen to stress that its pursuit of underpaid tax amounts from big companies has brought in billions of extra pounds of revenues to the Treasury in recent years.
“By effectively enforcing the rules HMRC has, since 2010, brought in £53bn that would have otherwise gone unpaid and collected over £8bn from large businesses last year alone,” a spokesperson for HMRC said in a statement.