Tax schemes suck mid-income towns onto map of HMRC avoidance

Tax schemes hoodwinking ordinary middle-income earners is one reason why normal commuter belt towns have lit up a new UK map charting admissions of unpaid liabilities.

Chartered firm UHY Hacker Young, which plotted the map using HMRC data, said official disclosures of unpaid tax were no longer restricted to the “super-rich” boroughs of London.

In fact, St Albans, Slough, Bournemouth and Milton Keynes are now home to the first, third, fourth and fifth highest number of people admitting to unpaid tax, respectively, the firm found.

Brighton, Bristol, and Dartford -- only about 20 miles outside of London (which has the most disclosures in total, 1,218,), also make the firm’s top 10 ‘avoidance admission hotspots.’

And the likes of schemes caught by the 2019 Loan Charge, the promoters of which were described this week as “snake oil salesman,” are among the reasons why.

“A lot of middle-income earners have been sucked into tax schemes over the last two decades,” says UHY Hacker Young tax partner Andrew Snowdon.

“[So quite apart from] Kensington and Chelsea…some very normal commuter belt towns like Slough are minor hotspots for admitting unpaid tax.”

Snowdown said that going forward to HMRC to make a tax disclosure was preferable to “burying your head in the sand,” but, even then, he recommended consulting a professional first.

“HMRC is prone to take a much more lenient approach if a disclosure is made unprompted,” he said, “but it’s important to seek professional advice before doing so in order to get the best possible settlement.”

According to the map, Edinburgh has the second highest number of unpaid tax disclosures to HMRC, with 23 per 100,000 residents, behind avoidance admission ‘capital’ St Albans (24, the highest), and followed by Slough (19).

In comparison, London, ranked sixth, was home to 15 admission of unpaid tax, the same as Milton Keynes (ranked 4th overall) and Bournemouth (5th), but above Bristol and Oxford (14 disclosures each).

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