HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have launched new action to cut out “misleading marketing” by the promoters of tax avoidance schemes.
The joint enforcement notice aims to disrupt the activity of promoters and protect people from being presented with misleading adverts designed to tempt them into tax avoidance, an HMRC statement said.
It requires promoters “to be clear about the potential consequences of tax avoidance in any online advertisements”, with the statement also saying “immediate sanctions include having [promoters’] paid advertising removed from search engines and follow-up compliance action, which can include referral to Trading Standards.”
It has been published as HMRC launches its ‘Tax avoidance: don’t get caught out’ awareness campaign warning and educating contractors about how to identify if they are being offered a tax avoidance scheme and the pitfalls of those schemes. HMRC has also published its Use of Marketed Tax Avoidance Schemes in the UK report including its most recent available data covering 2018 to 2019, and a “candid” look into the state of the market.
The campaign asks the public to:
STOP – Don’t sign anything that you are uncomfortable with and don’t understand
CHALLENGE – Check for warning signs. If you’re unsure, seek independent professional advice.
PROTECT – If you think you have been offered a tax avoidance scheme, report it to HMRC. Or if you need helping getting out of one, contact [HMRC].
“The government has made clear its determination to clamp down on the promoters of tax avoidance schemes,” said financial secretary to the treasury Jesse Norman. “Today HMRC and the ASA are taking an important further step in this direction by action against misleading advertisements by promoters.
“As always, we would encourage people to pay close attention to HMRC’s warnings not to enter tax avoidance schemes. If it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is.”
Miles Lockwood, director of complaints and investigations at ASA, said: “This notice serves as a clear warning to promoters of tax avoidance schemes – get your houses in order and ensure your ads comply with the law and our advertising rules, or face enforcement action.
“There can be a real consumer detriment for those who unwittingly following bogus tax avoidance advice – you could find yourself facing a significant tax bill. Working with bodies such as HMRC is helping us to better protect consumers from misleading and unfair advertising that can leave them out of pocket.”
3rd December 2020.