We have it on good authority that HMRC is focusing a campaign on restaurants, takeaways and street food businesses with a number of taskforces concentrating on this sector. HMRC have successfully used taskforces in the past to collect tax from the building sector and public houses.
The Revenue believe that the catering sector are more likely than other businesses to under-declare income due to the fact that they account for a high volume of cash transactions. The temptation is there to improve profits by avoiding VAT or payroll taxes.
Evidence shows that the campaign so far has been successful with 25% of major tax defaulters coming from this sector; 200 out of 775 businesses who have been named and shamed by HMRC have come from the catering sector.
The Revenue are aware of an electronic card payment system used by some caterers that does not leave an audit trail and could facilitate tax evasion.
They have also been focussing on lost tax through tips – if a restaurant is operating a tips scheme incorrectly or misreports its tips then HMRC are likely to demand payment of any unpaid tax and also charge interest and penalties. If they identify such misdemeanours, then they can use this as an excuse to open a full-blown tax investigation into the business.
Tax avoidance just does not pay and can often result in higher liabilities due to the imposition of interest and penalties