Tax avoidance investigations up by a quarter as HMRC rakes in extra £39m by targeting the rich

Holiday pictures, online shopping receipts and boasting on social media can trigger an investigation

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The Independent Online

A Finance Team set up by HM Revenue and Customs to target wealthy fund managers and investment bankers has brought in £39 million since it started in September 2012, while the number of investigations is up by a quarter in the last year.

The average number of investigations opened went up from four per month in the first six months of the unit’s existence to five per month in the past year, according to data collected by PFP, a firm that insures businesses against the costs of HMRC investigations.

The Finance Team is part of HRMC’s High Net Worth Unit, which targets high earners in private equity, investment banks, hedge funds and other funds.

Investigations can be triggered by pictures of expensive cars and holidays posted on social media, if the lifestyle the individual is boasting about does not match their reported income, said Kevin Igoe, managing director of PFP. HRMC also uses data from public and private sources including banks, local councils, the DVLA, online sales and purchase records.

“Individuals’ social media profiles can now be used by HMRC to build up a more detailed picture of their lifestyle. Social media boasts about expensive cars or even holiday pictures could trigger an enquiry if they do not fit with the individual’s reported income,” Igoe said.