The taxman has started investigations into more than 500 restaurants suspected of tax evasion since HMRC set up a task force to tackle the problem earlier this year.
HMRC revealed today that it was looking at a total of 531 restaurants, 159 of which were in London, 150 in the North-west and 222 in Scotland. It did not clarify whether the businesses were full-service restaurants or take-aways, although the HMRC is thought to be putting a particular focus on take-aways.
The total amount of tax under consideration is likely to run well into the millions of pounds. Although the total won't be available until the investigations have been completed, HMRC said that the potential amount of tax evaded in the 45 cases that have reached a stage where the level of tax can be determined was £634,050.
A total of 22 cases are currently being considered for criminal prosecution or Civil Investigation of Fraud procedures.
The HMRC launched its task force in May this year. The work comes as a result of the Government's £900m spending review investment to tackle tax evasion, avoidance and fraud from 2011/12. The Government hopes this will help raise and additional £7b a year by 2014/15.
By Neil Gerrard
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