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Government statement on tax avoidance, evasion and compliance

4 March 2019 (updated on 4 March 2019)

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Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, gave a statement on tax avoidance, evasion and compliance.

The Financial Secretary announced:

"This Government take a balanced approach to the public finances, investing in our vital public services while getting our debt down and keeping taxes as low as possible, and part of that approach is that everybody must pay the tax that is properly due. The vast majority of taxpayers, from individuals and the smallest businesses to the largest companies, already pay their fair share. This Government recognise their duty to that compliant majority to build a fair and sustainable taxation system and, through that system, to make sure that those who try to avoid or evade their tax liabilities are held to account.

Our approach is working. At 5.7%, the tax gap is at a near-record low. The difference between the tax that should be paid to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the actual tax that has been paid is at its joint lowest level in five years, thanks to HMRC's sustained efforts to tackle non-compliance and to help customers get their tax affairs right first time.

HMRC tailors its approach to different taxpayers, subjecting the largest businesses and the wealthiest individuals to the greatest level of scrutiny, while using data and digital tools to help smaller and mid-sized businesses to get it right, with close attention on those where avoidance or evasion is suspected. We must make sure the tax system is not a barrier to setting up, running or growing a business, but we should never forget that the tax brought in by HMRC directly funds our vital public services.

I am proud of this Government's success in this respect. Since 2010, we have introduced over 100 measures to tackle tax avoidance, evasion and other forms of non-compliance. Alongside this, HMRC's compliance work has secured and protected £200 billion in tax revenue that would otherwise have gone unpaid. In addition, at Budget 2018 the Government announced a further 21 measures that together are forecast to raise around £2.1 billion by 2023-24. This success demonstrates the Government's continued efforts to address tax avoidance, evasion and non-compliance in all its forms."

Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Jonathan Reynolds, responded to the statement and said:

"The Opposition came to Parliament today prepared to debate, to amend and to scrutinise the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill, and we did so in good faith, even though we were given just three hours to table amendments to the Bill last week, having been told on Wednesday afternoon that the remaining stages would be taken today. I should make it clear that the Bill had only come out of Committee the day before, on Tuesday, and that the business for this week was announced only last Thursday.

Let me be absolutely frank. The Bill has been pulled, and this statement scheduled instead, for one simple reason: the Government thought that they were going ​to lose. They have shown such contempt for Parliament today, and they are in such a state of chaos, that even the annunciator could not keep up with them this morning. This is not a statement from the Government on tax avoidance; it is a poor attempt to put up something that the Government can hide behind, because they are afraid to let Members of Parliament vote on the provisions of the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill."

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