The number of arrests made by HMRC for suspected tax evasion has fallen to a five-year low of just 782 in the last year – representing an 11% decrease in the number of arrests on the previous year. 

This lower number may be as a result of HMRC now taking a less aggressive approach after being hit with a number of ‘wrongful arrest’ claims brought by taxpayers. There has been some criticism of HMRC for being too ‘trigger happy’ in the past and this could be a sign that HMRC is now exercising its powers of arrest more responsibly and in accordance with the law.

HMRC was given the power of arrest following the merger of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise in 2005 – originally only customs officers had a power of arrest. However, while certain HMRC officers do have the power to arrest a person, Parliament has provided that certain conditions must be satisfied in order for an arrest to be lawful. Typically, a taxpayer who is under investigation for tax evasion will agree to attend a voluntary interview under caution with HMRC. In such circumstances, where the taxpayer is cooperating, HMRC should not ordinarily exercise its power of arrest.

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