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Tax Evasion

Volume 556: debated on Tuesday 8 January 2013

2. How many successful prosecutions for tax evasion the Serious Fraud Office has completed in each of the last five years. (135615)

It is the Crown Prosecution Service rather than the Serious Fraud Office that prosecutes tax evasion cases. The records of the Crown Prosecution Service show that in 2008-09 there were 226 convictions, and the latest figures, up to November 2012, show 349.

We had a major debate on tax avoidance yesterday, and I think the country and Parliament want us to be very tough on tax evasion. Can the Solicitor-General assure us that the Government and the Crown Prosecution Service will concentrate on large national and international companies, and not on the small fish, so that ordinary people realise that they are not being singled out when much bigger prizes are available from much naughtier people?

I can certainly give my right hon. Friend the assurance that from top to bottom the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who has given us a target of increasing prosecutions fivefold, and all parts of Government will tackle this issue hard. From the point of view of the Attorney-General’s office, my right hon. Friend may be interested to know that we have been referring cases where sentences are unduly lenient to the Court of Appeal. It has recently been established that seven years’ imprisonment should be the starting point for significant tax fraud cases.

Tax fraud is estimated to cost the Government £3.3 billion. What steps are the Serious Fraud Office and the Department taking to address that?

The Crown Prosecution Service, with the police, is working extremely hard on tax evasion cases to ensure that as many as possible are brought to court. As I mentioned, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has set the target of a fivefold increase in cases. The figures I read out show that since 2008-09, there has been a major increase in the number of convictions.