Tax & admin · 18 December 2017

HMRC seizes assets from almost 2,000 small businesses in a year

Past Due
HMRC have cracked down on non-payment of taxes

The Treasury seized business assets from 1,953 UK firms in 2016 to 2017, an increase of 23 per cent since the previous tax year, recent research has shown.

Between 2016 and 2017, the tax office became more aggressive in its pursuing of non-tax paying businesses, according to findings from alternative business finance platform, Funding Options.

Making greater use of its powers to “take control of goods”, this year HMRC was found to have raided more business premises without warning in order to seize assets and settle overdue company tax disputes.

Putting firms at greater risk of closure, HMRC seized assets that would have been crucial to the running of any small business, such as vital IT infrastructure or machinery.

The research pointed out that assets seized by HMRC were then often sold on, at fire sale prices. In the last 12 months, just £41.6m was raised at “asset auctions” – a relatively low amount considering the disruption caused to most of the businesses which had their assets taken.

The growing trend towards assets seizures suggests HMRC is looking to crack down heavily on small business owners who aren’t paying the correct amount of tax.

According to the study, seizing assets can be viewed as HMRC’s last resort, as the government mounts pressure on the body to increase the UK’s overall tax take.

Commenting on the data, CEO at Funding Options, Conrad Ford, said: “HMRC is displaying that it is increasingly cracking down on small businesses with overdue tax bills, and won’t hesitate to use all the powers at its disposal.

“In a worst-case scenario, having their assets seized by HMRC could be fatal to small businesses.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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