Tax collectors say they are targeting 600 further tax evaders

The government has arrested five plumbers in a crackdown on tax evasion by HM Revenue and Customs.

HMRC said it arrested the “ghost plumbers” in raids in London, Hampshire, Surrey, Twickenham and West Bromwich for not declaring the income from the work they carried out.

It said it was continuing to investigate 600 plumbers following a campaign to persuade them to get their tax affairs in order, and will carry out further raids in Yorkshire, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Tyne & Wear, the Midlands, and South Wales.

Mike Wells, Director HMRC Risk & Intelligence Service, said: “These arrests are just the start. HMRC is considering hundreds of further cases for criminal investigation in the plumbing and medical professions. Some people may have thought we were bluffing when we said we have information that we will use to prosecute tax evasion.”

Under the Plumbers Tax Safe Plan (PTSP), plumbers, gas fitters and heating engineers who owe tax that they had not declared faced a penalty rate of only 10%, with a maximum of 20% if they disclose in full. They have until 31 August to arrange for payment.

Although the guarantee of terms within the PTSP are no longer on offer, HMRC is still saying it will consider reducing the penalty rate for those who come forward.

John Pointing, Assistant Director, HMRC Criminal Investigation, said: “We provided a chance for those we have arrested, and the 600 we are investigating, to come forward voluntarily and put things right. These arrests send a clear message that HMRC will take action against those who choose not to come forward and pay the tax they owe.”