Figures released by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) show that the UK’s tax gap – the difference between tax owed and actual receipts – is continuing to fall.
The Revenue has revealed that the tax gap for the 2016-17 tax year was 5.7 per cent, down from six per cent in the previous year and 7.3 per cent in 2005-06. It says that, had the tax gap not fallen, a total of £71 billion less tax would have been collected last year.
The figures should that of the total tax that was unpaid, the largest proportion was from small businesses, with £13.7 billion not paid.
According to HMRC, taxpayer error was nearly twice as likely as criminality to be the culprit for missing tax, with errors costing the Revenue £9.2 billion in lost income and criminality costing £5.4 billion in lost income.
Meanwhile, Income Tax, National Insurance and Capital Gains Tax had the biggest tax gap at £7.9 billion. The VAT gap, on the other hand, has fallen from 12.5 per cent in 2015-06 to 8.9 per cent in 2016-17.
Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “These really positive figures show that the tax gap is the lowest in the last five years, which reflects the hard work that HMRC and I have been doing to ensure we support businesses to pay the right tax at the right time and clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance.
“Collecting taxes is essential for funding our vital public services such as the NHS – indeed, had the tax gap remained at its 2005/06 level the UK would have lost £71 billion in revenue destined for public services, enough to build 200 hospitals.”
Jon Thompson, Chief Executive of HMRC, added: “The UK is the only country in the world to regularly publish their tax gap in detail and at 5.7%, it remains at its lowest for five years. I am pleased that the downward trend shows HMRC and HM Treasury’s continued hard work to tackle evasion and avoidance is working.
“HMRC is also working hard to help taxpayers get their tax right by offering support and investing in digital services to improve businesses’ record keeping and reduce errors.”
The Revenue is now touting the forthcoming launch of its flagship Making Tax Digital programme as the latest weapon in its arsenal as it looks to reduce the tax gap further. From April 2019, all businesses with a turnover of £85,000 or more will need to keep digital records and make quarterly VAT returns online to HMRC using ‘designated software packages’. This is expected to be extended to most other taxes in future years.