Tax avoidance - don't get caught out
Tax avoidance is when people bend the rules of the tax system to try to pay less than they owe. It means the vital public services we all use, like hospitals and schools, don’t get the money they need.
When someone enters a tax avoidance scheme, they take on all of the risk. That is because each of us is responsible under UK law for paying the correct amount of tax. That even applies if you have appointed someone else to deal with your affairs or if you are given bad advice.
If you are found using a tax avoidance scheme, you’ll have to pay the tax that is legally due, plus interest, and you may have to pay a penalty. That is on top of any fees that you’ve paid the person who sold you the scheme.
You might think tax avoidance is difficult to spot or that you need to be a real expert. It is actually fairly straightforward. HMRC is here to help you spot the warning signs.
If something looks too good to be true, then it almost certainly is.
If you are worried about becoming involved in tax avoidance, or are using an avoidance scheme and want to get out but do not know how, we are here to help you.
Some contractors who were caught up in tax avoidance schemes have asked us to share their stories as a warning to others. They were promised higher take-home pay, lower tax bills and less paperwork. Instead, it cost them time, money and stress.
In this context, a ‘contractor’ is someone who provides services to clients that do not directly engage them. This may be through an ‘umbrella company’, an agency, a partnership or their own company, such as a Personal Service Company. This applies to employed and self-employed individuals. Read more about contractors on GOV.UK.
Contractors are commonly employed through ‘umbrella companies’. Sometimes other people recommend the umbrella company, or the contractor finds the umbrella company themselves. Contractors should be aware that some umbrella companies break the tax rules and attract people by offering higher take home pay than they are entitled to. Read our guide to what it’s like to work through an umbrella company and how you’ll be paid.
We are here to help you if you are worried about becoming involved in tax avoidance or want to get out of a scheme. You can contact us if you have been:
You can do it anonymously if you prefer – you do not have to give your name, address or email address. Please make sure you enter the words ‘Contractor campaign’ in the ‘Other information’ section.
You can also phone HMRC on 0800 788 887 – if you’re outside the UK call +44 (0)203 0800871.
If you think you are already involved in a tax avoidance scheme you should contact us as quickly as possible. We’ll help you get out of it and help you settle your tax affairs. The longer you leave it the bigger the tax bill.
Our job is to help get you back on the right track. We won’t be judgemental and if you can’t afford to pay everything in one go, we may be able to offer you an instalment arrangement.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information read Tax avoidance: getting out of an avoidance scheme.
HMRC has published several resources and guidance on tax avoidance:
We want to hear your views about the information on this page, and on GOV.UK, so we can improve the quality and relevance of the information we provide in future.