As a restaurateur, my job is to control the chaos and the drama. There's always going to be chaos in the restaurant business. Rocco DiSpirito
So we've had doctors, dentists and plumbers all under HMRC's microscope. We've also have a few amnesties for offshore evaders thrown in for good measure and of course we're still in the middle of the Liechtenstein Disclosure Agreement (LDA). They've reportedly bought stolen information on foreign account holders, they've revised their penalties upwards, and now have a £900 million war chest with which to tackle evasion. It's been a busy few years for HMRC on the crackdown front!
The latest targets are reported to be the UK's restaurateurs.
Why restaurants and why now? Well it's happening now as HMRC are under massive pressure to raise the tax take so if there was ever going to be a right time it's now. And its restaurants most likely because it's a cash oriented business which makes cooking the books (no pun intended) a little easier. HMRC may be also be interested in tips and gratuities and what systems are in place to ensure they are being properly declared. This was famously a target in "Operation Gourmet" some years back although that little foray seemed to leave a bad taste in the mouths of some (no pun intended).
We understand that this focus on restaurants is in fact only the tip of the iceberg and that there are plans to set up 9 more special focus compliance groups to investigate other particular industry sectors. HMRC have always been good at collecting data on risky sectors. Several years ago I heard a former inspector speak about a division which clipped news out of the press on particular targets. Whether that was just an anecdote I don't know but it would appear that HMRC certainly seem to know what sectors they feel are high risk and now they're a coming for their slice of the pie (we meant that one!).