Five plumbers have been arrested and around 600 are under civil investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for failing to pay their taxes.
The arrests and investigations have taken place during a campaign targeting plumbers that invited them to put their tax affairs in order. Some of those involved owe up to £150,000.
This is the start of co-ordinated action and more raids are expected to take place over the coming weeks across the UK, including Yorkshire, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Tyne & Wear, Midlands and South Wales.
John Pointing, assistant director, HMRC Criminal Investigation, said: “These raids and arrests of ‘ghosts’ - people who have not declared income from the work they do - are the culmination of months of work by HMRC.
“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.”
HMRC Risk & Intelligence Service director Mike Wells 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) that was launched in March, plumbers, gas fitters, heating engineers and members of associated trades 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 – just two more weeks.
Although the guarantee of terms within the PTSP expired on 31 May, HMRC has left the PTSP disclosure route open for those in the plumbing industry who have unpaid tax to disclose but who have still not come forward.