Prosecution Policy

After the merger of the Revenue and Customs, HMRC issued the following statement of their prosecution policy:-

‘HMRC Prosecution Policy statement

Since the formation of HMRC in April 2005, the function of prosecuting HMRC’s criminal casework has been wholly undertaken by the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office (RCPO), which is an independent prosecuting authority reporting to the Attorney General.  RCPO will determine which of the cases referred to it by HMRC should proceed to prosecution by applying the tests set out in the Code for Crown prosecutors.

Although HMRC is no longer a prosecuting authority it still has an important role to play in the protection of society from illegal imports of drugs, alcohol and tobacco smuggling and tax fraud.  This still requires it to investigate both under civil and criminal codes, any offences and suspected offences it discovers in these areas.

HMRC Criminal Investigation Policy

HMRC’s aim is to secure the highest level of compliance with the law and regulations governing direct and indirect taxes and other regimes for which they are responsible.  Criminal investigation, with a view to prosecution by the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office (RCPO) in England and Wales – or the appropriate prosecuting authority in Scotland and Northern Ireland, is an important part of HMRC’s overall enforcement strategy.

It is HMRC’s policy to deal with fraud by use of the cost effective Civil Investigation of Fraud (CIF) procedures, wherever appropriate.  Criminal Investigation will be reserved for cases where HMRC needs to send out a strong deterrent message or where the conduct involved is such that only a criminal sanction is appropriate.

However, HMRC reserves complete discretion to conduct a criminal investigation in any case and to carry out these investigations across a range of offences and in all the areas for which the Commissioners of HMRC have responsibility.

Examples of the kind of circumstances in which HMRC will generally consider commencing a criminal, rather than a civil investigation are:-

  • In cases of organised criminal gangs attacking the tax system or systematic frauds where losses represents a serious threat to the tax base, including conspiracy;
  • Where an individual holds a position of trust or responsibility.
  • Where materially false statements are made or materially false or altered document or such reliance or material facts are misrepresented to enhance the credibility of a scheme;
  • Where deliberate concealment, deception, conspiracy or corruption is suspected;
  • In cases involving the use of false or forged documents;
  • In cases involving importation or exportation breaching prohibitions and restrictions;
  • In cases involving money laundering with particular focus on advisors, accountants, solicitors and others acting in a “professional” capacity who provide the means to put tainted money out of reach of the law enforcement;
  • Where the perpetrator has committed previous offences or there is a repeated course of unlawful conduct or previous civil action;
  • In cases involving theft, or the misuse or unlawful destruction of HMRC documents;
  • Where there is evidence of assault on, threats to, or the impersonation of HMRC officials;
  • Where there is a link to suspected wider criminality, whether domestic or international, involving offences not under the administration of HMRC.

 

When considering whether a case should be investigated under the Civil Investigation of Fraud procedures or is the subject of a criminal investigation, one factor will be whether the taxpayer(s) has made a complete and unprompted disclosure of the offences committed.

However, there are certain fiscal offences where HMRC will not usually adopt the Civil Investigation of Fraud approach.  Examples of these are:-

  • VAT Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) Fraud.
  • VAT “Bogus” registration repayment fraud
  • Organised Tax Credit fraud’

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