The personal cost

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.

Stop, challenge, protect

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.

Stop

Stop, and take your time

Don’t sign anything that you are uncomfortable with or don’t understand. People selling avoidance won’t always explain how it actually works. Ask them to explain it clearly so you know what you are signing and what it means.

If you’re unsure, seek independent professional advice.

Challenge

Challenge what you're being told

Think you are being encouraged to get into an avoidance scheme? Check for the warning signs:

  • Is the contract incredibly complicated?
  • Are they claiming you’ll take home more money than you would have expected?
  • Will you get a cash bonus if you recommend a friend?

Check out our quick guide to spotting signs of tax avoidance and how to protect yourself from them.

Protect

Protect yourself and others

If you think you have been encouraged to get into a tax avoidance scheme, report it to HMRC. Or if you need help getting out of one, contact us.

 

Personal stories

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.

Umbrella companies

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.

Report a suspicious scheme

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:

  • encouraged to get into a tax avoidance scheme
  • you are aware of a tax avoidance scheme
  • you want to let us know about someone selling tax avoidance schemes

 

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.

Ask HMRC – we can help

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 exitsteam.counteravoidance@hmrc.gov.uk.

For further information read Tax avoidance: getting out of an avoidance scheme.

Further information

HMRC has published several resources and guidance on tax avoidance:

 

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