HMRC drops Clavis Herald criminal investigation by Richard Wynne

Richard Wynne reports on a troubling case where it appears HMRC shot first and asked questions later.

An email is being widely circulated that reports that HMRC has dropped its criminal investigation into the individuals behind the tax planning HMRC calls Clavis Herald SPT. The report appears to be correct based on our enquiries with parties linked to the case.

This is yet another high-profile case of an HMRC criminal investigation being launched very publicly that has gone on for many years only to be dropped later without any public comment. In the meantime, individuals named as subjects in the criminal probe have their businesses and reputations trashed, live under the threat of criminal charges and have to incur the costs of defending themselves.

HMRC gains an enormous payback from a criminal case such as this:

  • A troublesome tax avoidance promoter is put out of business;
  • The intervention receives widespread media coverage that acts as a deterrent; and
  • Users of the scheme are put under almost irresistible pressure to settle their taxes or risk receiving the same fate.

But is this right and, more importantly, is it time that HMRC was held to account for using the criminal code in this way to address difficult domestic policy matters, powers that should be used instead to prosecute criminals?

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