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Uncollected Tax

Volume 594: debated on Tuesday 10 March 2015

1. What recent estimate Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has made of the amount of uncollected tax in the UK. (907957)

4. What recent estimate Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has made of the amount of uncollected tax in the UK. (907960)

HMRC published its latest tax gap estimates on 16 October 2014. In 2012-13, the tax gap was estimated at £34 billion, 6.8% of total tax due.

I thank the Minister for those figures. Will he confirm that HMRC’s own figures show that under this Government the amount of uncollected tax has risen by £3 billion?

The number I quoted a moment ago, 6.8%, is a lower percentage of tax due than was achieved in any year under the previous Government.

There has been speculation that the Chancellor’s Budget next week will deal with tax avoidance and evasion, but there has also been speculation that by 2016 the number of staff working in HMRC will drop from 50,000 to just over 40,000. How do the Government expect to deal with evasion and avoidance if they are unwilling to properly resource HMRC?

Over the course of this Parliament, HMRC has brought in more yield year after year. If the measure is just on the number of staff, the hon. Lady will be aware that, when HMRC was formed in 2005, it had something like 92,000 members of staff and that by the end of the previous Parliament it had below 70,000. It is not about the number of staff. We are seeing a huge improvement in HMRC’s performance.

Will the Minister confirm that HMRC’s compliance yield target has actually been revised up this year to £26 billion, which is £9 billion more than when this Government came to office?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The important point here is the output, not the input. I should point out that the number of staff employed in enforcement and compliance has gone up over the course of this Parliament.

17. A young man in my constituency had his jobseeker’s allowance taken away because he missed an early morning appointment, despite having notified the jobcentre of the illness that prevented him from attending. He is just one of many vulnerable people affected by the sanctioning regime imposed by this Government. According to the House of Commons Library, the amount lost in tax evasion and tax avoidance exceeds the entire spend on JSA by £2 billion. Does the contrast between the persecution of the most vulnerable and the Government’s failure on tax avoidance not say everything about their priorities? (907973)

Over the course of this Parliament, the number of prosecutions for tax evasion has gone up fivefold. The reality is that the Government are taking more measures to deal with tax avoidance and tax evasion. We have done that consistently at every Budget. Ever since the 2010 spending review, there has been a greater focus on HMRC being able to bring in the yield. The numbers, as my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) pointed out, speak for themselves.

Hundreds of millions of pounds are lost in revenue, criminal gangs are financed and untold damage is done to the environment in Northern Ireland as a result of fuel laundering. Why have the Government resisted putting effective trace measures into fuel, which would stamp this out? Is the Minister concerned that despite numerous raids nobody is ever caught for fuel laundering in Northern Ireland?

Our record across the piece shows that we take tax evasion and criminal activity in this area very seriously. This is a complex matter, but the hon. Gentleman will know that considerable efforts have been undertaken to address fuel laundering. This is a matter we take very seriously.

The Minister must acknowledge the significant damage that the recent HSBC tax avoidance and evasion scandal has done to the public’s confidence in the Government’s willingness to pursue tax avoiders and evaders, thereby reducing the amount of uncollected tax in the UK. In the Chancellor’s absence, will the Minister now answer the question that the Chancellor failed to answer six times on the “Today” programme? Did the Chancellor ever discuss tax evasion at HSBC with Lord Green—yes or no?

As I have pointed out, the Government’s efforts and success in dealing with tax avoidance and tax evasion are a huge step forward from what we inherited. On the appointment of Lord Green, the proper processes, as put in place by the previous Government, were undertaken. The Cabinet Secretary looked at Lord Green’s tax affairs, and just as the previous Government appointed him to their business advisory council, so he was appointed as a Minister—an appointment that was welcomed by the Labour party.

Still we have no answer to the simplest and clearest of questions. If we cannot get a straight answer from the Chancellor or his Ministers, we should at least hear from Lord Green—the man who was in charge of the bank and was then made a Conservative Minister—either in front of a parliamentary Committee or through a statement in the other place. Why are the Government parties so desperate to silence Lord Green? What are they so afraid he will reveal?

We are not afraid of anything. The Government have been more successful at prosecuting criminals involved in tax evasions, more successful at closing tax avoidance loopholes and more successful at getting money in. That is a record we can be proud of.