World Economy

More Britons Jailed for Tax Evasion

More Britons Jailed for Tax EvasionMore Britons Jailed for Tax Evasion

More people are going to prison for tax evasion in the UK, according to official statistics, but the average length of these jail terms has fallen sharply over the past four years, Yahoo News reported.

The total number of tax evaders jailed has risen by 29 percent, from 171 in 2011, to 220 last year. The average time served fell 57 per cent, from 41.3 months in 2011 to 17.7 months in 2014, according to figures released by HM Revenue & Customs in response to a freedom of information request.

The figures were described by lawyers as a sign of the last government’s more aggressive approach to dealing with tax evaders, which has resulted in the prosecution of more marginal cases.

Fiona Fernie, a Pinsent Masons partner, said the figures reflected the pressure on the Revenue — from both politicians and the public — to show zero tolerance when it came to tax evasion.

She said: “HMRC wants to make examples of tax evaders by sending more of them to prison. It is no longer focusing narrowly on the very wealthiest culprits, guilty of the most serious evasion. It is clamping down on tax evaders from all walks of life and adopting a much more aggressive stance when it comes to pushing for criminal sanctions.”

HMRC said it could not comment on the length of sentences as sentencing policy was a matter for the courts in accordance with guidance by the Ministry of Justice.

But it said: “HMRC takes all tax evasion seriously. Last year we brought in over £16b ($24.3b) in extra tax from proactively enforcing the rules. More than 1,100 charging decisions were made in our favor as part of our commitment to honest taxpayers.”