Taxman targets trade up north

Alcohol industry in Aberdeen and Inverness in HMRC sights

BUSINESSES engaged in all parts of the alcohol industry in Scotland are being targeted by HMRC as it continues its quest to retrieve millions of pounds of unpaid tax.

The taxman confirmed last week that a new task force was now undertaking a fresh burst of activity to bring tax cheats in the trade to book.
As well as focusing on the alcohol trade in Scotland, including in Aberdeen and Inverness, special teams will be targeting clothing manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and textile recycling businesses in the Midlands, north Wales and north west England, and the property rental sector in the south east, as HMRC looks to recoup some £17m.
The trade-focused activity comes after HMRC launched a similar campaign in the Scottish pub and club trade this summer, and in the restaurant sector in 2011.
The Revenue said it’s on course to collect more than £50m as a result of the 30 task forces it has brought in since May last year. A spokesman told SLTN the latest burst, which is expected to last for two months, would cover all parts of the drinks production, distribution and retail sector, and the main forms of taxation – duty, VAT and income tax.
Businesses which fall under its radar will be notified in advance, with inspectors asking to check books and records to ensure “people are paying what they’re supposed to”.
“We realise that the vast majority are doing what they should, but there is a minority who are acting outside the rules,” he said.
“The main thing is, if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Businesses don’t need to be concerned if they’re declaring all they should.”
The Federation of Small Businesses told SLTN the targeted nature of the activity suggests a particular problem in Aberdeen and Inverness, as opposed to the “sharp practices of multinational beverage chains”.
Scots policy chief Andy Willox pointed out that many small businesses may be unaware of the “intricate details of tax obligations – especially when starting out”, and urged HMRC to be flexible with firms which have made a “genuine mistake”.
Hospitality accountant Ian McDougall said that instead of continuing to target SMEs the taxman should “maybe focus scarce resources on large multinational organisations” in light of headlines over the tax affairs of companies like Starbucks.