TAX cheats in the Plymouth area who try to fraudulently reclaim VAT are being targeted as part of a new crackdown.
HM Revenue and Customs has set up a taskforce in response to an increased risk of fraudulent VAT repayment claims in the South West.
In particular, it has seen businesses being set up purely for the purpose of making false VAT repayments claims.
The VAT repayment taskforce – targeted at individuals and businesses in Plymouth, Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, Somerset and West Wiltshire – aims to tackle that and is set to bring in £3.8million in South-West England and South Wales. A taskforce is also being launched in North-East England.
Taskforces are specialist teams that undertake intensive bursts of activity in specific high-risk trade sectors and locations in the UK.
The teams visit traders to examine their records and carry out other investigations.
In July, Plymouth’s hoteliers and B&B owners came under the scrutiny of a taskforce as the taxman looked to rake in £2.5million.
David Gauke, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: “We are determined to support hard-working people who want to get on, but the people being targeted by these taskforces have no intention of playing by the rules.
“This Government has made it clear that we will not tolerate tax evasion and has provided HMRC with the resources to crack down on those who break the rules.”
HMRC has collected more than £100million as a result of taskforces launched since 2011-12.
It expects to bring in over £90 million a year from taskforces launched over the next three years.
HMRC’s Jennie Granger, director-general of enforcement and compliance, said: “Deliberately falsifying VAT records is serious.
“It is really important that we level the playing field by stopping tax cheats.
“Our message is: do the right thing. If you haven’t already, come clean now.
“If you don’t, we will find you, investigate you and, not only could you face a heavy fine, but you may face a criminal prosecution as well.”
Other taskforces being launched this month to tackle tax evasion will target the road transport industry in the South-East and South, and hidden wealth in the South-East and South.
Previously, taskforces have been launched to look into the holiday industry in Blackpool, the Lake District and North Wales; restaurants in Lincolnshire and Tyneside; road hauliers in Milton Keynes, Oxford and Northampton; and the fishing industry in Scotland.