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Landlords and property investors who cheat on their tax are under scrutiny from special HM Revenue & Customs task forces.
The teams in London and the North West have been so successful that HMRC has set up a third team of investigators in Scotland.
The team looking at property investors dodging tax in London is expected to yield up to £7 million in unpaid tax plus penalties and interest.
Another group in the North West has uncovered a number of ‘ghost’ landlords, referring three tax evasion cases for criminal prosecution.
The task forces are part of a wider HMRC initiative to clamp down on tax evasion, avoidance and fraud that aims to raise the government around £7 billion a year.
The move aims to raise £7 billion a year by 2014-15. HMRC is planning 12 task forces in 2011-12, with more to follow in 2012-13.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “It is not right that some landlords in Scotland have chosen to deliberately evade the tax they should be paying. This is not fair on honest businesses and HMRC will come down hard on those who have chosen to break the rules.”
Investigators are harnessing technology to root out tax cheats by sending out web spiders to gather buy to let and holiday rental marketing information from internet sites.
They are also crosschecking Land Registry information with electoral rolls and housing benefit payments to identify likely letting properties.
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, said: “The government is committed to tackling tax evasion and avoidance. HMRC’s task forces are cracking down on people who choose to break the rules and creating a level playing field for the majority who play by them.
“It is completely unacceptable, at a time when we are trying to bring down the deficit that, while most hard-working people pay the right tax, there are others who try to get out of contributing their fair share.”
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