HMRC has offered online traders a three-month amnesty to pay any outstanding tax and take advantage of lower penalties through the e-Markets Disclosure Facility.
Those wishing to take advantage of the disclosure facility should register with HMRC between 14 March and 14 June, and will have up until 14 September to provide further details.
If they make a full disclosure of what they owe before 14 September, some will receive no penalty at all, with most receiving a penalty of no more than 10% of the tax owed.
After that date, HMRC will investigate those who have failed to respond. HMRC has warned that penalties of up to 100% of the tax owed or even a criminal investigation could follow.
The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) was quick to respond to the news, but called for “general disclosure facility” to make it as easy as possible for people to put their tax affairs in order.
Gary Ashford, who represents the CIOT on HMRC’s Compliance Reform Forum, said: “However there is a danger that the conveyor belt of disclosure facilities aimed at different groups will make others who wish to get their tax arrears in order wonder whether they should wait for ‘their’ opportunity.
“There is a risk that HMRC are missing the big picture. Rather than continuing to launch different targeted campaigns every few weeks, HMRC should focus their efforts on a big national campaign open to all taxpayers whose tax affairs are not up to date; a one-off disclosure that lasts sufficiently long and is sufficiently attractive to get people to come forward to clean the slate.”
To make a disclosure, complete a notification form online at the HMRC website.
HMRC also recently announced that it had set up a new “cybercrime team” to focus on organised tax fraud more productively.
It follows a rise in fraud and the "increasingly sophisticated" methods cyber criminals are using to target HMRC's repayment systems.