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HMRC making examples of tax dodgers

12th March 2015

A 56 year old woman who lied to HMRC to avoid paying £500,000 in inheritance tax has been found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to 2 years in jail.

Theresa Bunn claimed to have only inherited £285,000 whereas the sum was in fact £1.5m. She failed to disclose “substantial cash gifts from her aunt while she was alive”. If the donor dies within seven years of giving the gifts, then they will still be subject to inheritance tax as the fall within the donor’s estate.

It is likely that Ms Bunn was the executor of her aunt’s estate, as well as the main beneficiary, and as such would have been responsible for preparing a list of her aunt’s assets.

This is the most recent ‘naming and shaming’ of a number of tax evaders that HMRC has done in recent years, with 77 names in 2014 alone. Current guidance says that people evading over £25,000 in tax have their names published, with potentially serious financial and reputational consequences.

Despite strong support from Margaret Hodge and the Public Accounts Committee, experts have questioned the tactics, with George Bull at Baker Tilly asking “Over time is it possible that naming and shaming will become so commonplace that the threat becomes diluted?”