HMRC, desperate to make up for lost tax revenue from the recession are launch9ing a new blitz, initially to target doctors and dentists.
Doctors and dentists were identified yesterday as the first groups that HM Revenue and Customs inspectors would target.
Other white-collar workers including solicitors, barristers and accountants were expected to be targeted in coming months in what inspectors have named the “professionals campaign”.
Previously the revenue has focused on people in blue collar occupations, such as publicans and taxi drivers, when fighting tax evasion.
It was disclosed yesterday that attention would switch to the accounts of professionals earning more than £100,000.
Tens of thousands of individuals were expected to be audited.
Experts accused the Government of unfairly seeking “easy pickings”.
They suggested that the decision to chase high-earning professionals for unpaid taxes had been forced on the revenue by the Treasury, in an attempt to raise funds to reduce the national debt.
The revenue said a “significant” minority of medical professionals were engaged in tax evasion.
Examples cited included not declaring fees for private work done for medical care providers, payments for private consultation work or cash sums for drafting medical reports. Under a three-month amnesty, hospital consultants, GPs and dentists have until March 31 to make a voluntary disclosure about any income they have not declared.
In exchange, they will have to pay the outstanding tax. They will also face a fine of 10 per cent of the amount owed — but the action will stop there.
However, anyone who refuses to disclose their unpaid tax, and is caught after the deadline, faces criminal prosecution and up to seven years’ jail. They could also find themselves “named and shamed” on the revenue’s website.
Tax inspectors can issue formal notices asking people to hand over bank statements and business records if they believe they have grounds for suspicions. They can also legally inspect business premises using their civil powers. Tax evaders could also be identified through their previous tax returns.
Mike Wells, the revenue’s director of risk and intelligence, said: “I strongly urge any in this group [the medical profession] who think they may have outstanding tax liabilities on their income to get in touch with HMRC and get their tax affairs in order simply and on the best available terms.
“The message is clear: contact us before we contact you.”
Phil Berwick, the director of tax investigations at the law firm McGrigors, said targeting the medical profession alone was “without precedent”. “It is people who are going to be averse to naming and shaming and probably in a position to make a payment to the revenue,” he said.
“By offering an amnesty, HMRC is hoping to get a significant amount of tax into the Treasury’s coffers very quickly and at a reduced cost to itself. The parlous state of the public finances and the pressing need to reduce the deficit has probably forced HMRC’s hand to an extent.”
The middle-class initiative follows a previous revenue amnesty scheme to allow people with offshore bank accounts to declare how much tax they owed and pay a small fine. About 10,000 people made use of the scheme.
Richard Limburg, from Vantis Medical Group, the accountancy firm, added: “It is likely that HMRC sees the medical profession, especially consultants, as easy pickings and this could raise substantial amounts.”
A British Medical Association spokesman said doctors with concerns should consult a financial adviser. A spokesman for the British Dental Association said: “This plan serves as a useful reminder of the importance of ensuring everything is up to date.”