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HMRC taskforce launched to tackle tax dodgers in Northern Ireland hospitality industry

HMRC taskforce launched to tackle tax dodgers in Northern Ireland hospitality industry

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has launched a taskforce to tackle tax evaders in the Northern Ireland hospitality industry

The unit includes specialist criminal and hidden economy investigators and businesses who break the law could face hefty fines or criminal prosecution. The taskforce is expected to recover £2.9 million.

However the announcement has raised concerns that the crack down could become a witch hunt, according to www.newsletter.co.uk.

Colin Neill, chief executive of the Pubs of Ulster, which represents bars, cafes, hotels and restaurants across Northern Ireland, said: "Obviously everyone has to pay the tax that is due but I would hate to see it as a witch hunt on a particular industry.

"I would not have thought that the hospitality industry is any worse than anybody else."

Tax evasion cost the UK treasury £9b last year.

David Gauke, the Exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: "This taskforce is targeting people who are not playing by the rules. Most people pay what they should. The Government has made it clear that we will not tolerate tax evasion and HMRC will crack down on those who seek to break the rules."

HMRC taskforces brought in more than £70m across the UK in 2011-12 and a further £90m is expected to be recovered this year."

"Most people and businesses voluntarily comply, so it is important we deal firmly with those who don't, added Jennie Granger, HMRC's director general enforcement and compliance.

"The message is clear - if you choose to defraud the tax system or seek to evade tax, we can and will track you down. You will face not only a heavy fine, but possibly a criminal prosecution as well."

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