Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at Sheffield University, said: “This shows just how far removed the senior leadership of HMRC are from public opinion. This policy provides absolutely no deterrent to tax cheats.”
Richard Las, the deputy director of HMRC in charge of organised crime, said that “very wealthy and prominent members of the community” were afraid of the “reputational damage” that a criminal trial for fraud, money-laundering or tax evasion would bring.
He admitted that “criminal justice” was never a “default option” for HMRC. “We use it where it is necessary and it will have the greatest effect,” Las said.
“When deciding whether to deploy our resources, we try to understand what motivates different types of offenders. For example, some tax offenders are very wealthy, prominent members of the community. We know that these types of people do not want the reputational damage of custodial sentences, and we can use that to our advantage.”
The news raises fresh questions about the approach of HMRC, which has been criticised for failing to prosecute high-profile people with financial interests in offshore tax havens.
What HMRC has actually said is that we’ll use whatever we can to make the bastards cough up. And if it’s the threat of public shame which will then we use that. If that won’t work then sure, we go to the expense of prosecution and the courts.
What the hell else do you want us to do?