Deputy Editor Sift Media
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Tax dodging: A grave mistake

28th Jul 2010
Deputy Editor Sift Media
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It’s official: The big bad taxman is afraid of no one; not even ghosts. Naturally as an accountancy journalist and lover of ghoulish tales, the news that HMRC had dug up someone’s grave to recover unpaid taxes was both a gift and a curse. The potential for clichés and puns was limitless but there’s also a rather serious side to this: You can die, but you can’t hide from the taxman.

The saying goes that only two things in life are certain – death and taxes – and this certainly rang true for one businessman this week, who was (ghost) busted for burying £140,000 in his aunt’s grave to avoid paying tax on it.

The hapless tax dodger planned to leave the cash buried until the 20 year time limit for tax investigations had expired (much like his poor aunt).

His ploy was scuppered, however, when tax inspectors were tipped off and got permission from the parish priest to dig up the grave and recover HMRC’s £50,000 share.

HMRC is stepping up its efforts to catch tax dodgers, Dave Hartnett, the department’s permanent secretary for tax told the Sun this week.

“Tax evasion isn’t a victimless crime,” said Hartnett. “We all pay extra to compensate for the money cheats steal from the country.

“Tax evaders line their greedy pockets at the expense of our schools and hospitals, our police and soldiers. But we're getting better at catching cheats. It's not worth the risk."

HMRC has paid out some £437,000 to informers for tip offs since 2007, according to figures disclosed to the Daily Telegraph, and it seems to be paying off; investigators recovered around £5bn from tax evaders in 2008/9.

The Sun rather helpfully included a box detailing some other far-fetched tax scams perpetrated in recent years, including a prostitute who avoided tax by only operating online (HMRC cornered her for £250,000) and a businessman who claimed more than £70,000 in ‘business expenses’ against his tax who was later discovered by inspectors to have used the cash to fund trips to F1 events.

The brazen and bizarre lengths people go to avoid their taxes never fails to surprise and amuse us here at AccountingWEB towers. Most tax advisers would agree there’s not much glamour in this profession, but we reckon some of these outlandish real life stories would make a brilliant film franchise. Watch out for ‘Tales of the Taxman’, coming to a screen near you just as soon as we get the cash to make it!
 

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