9 January 2020: The number of winding up petitions from HMRC has hit a four-year high leading some commentators to suggest that they are using the insolvency mechanism as a way of recovering outstanding debts rather than working with businesses on ways to settle the amounts outstanding.
At the same time HMRC has been found “less willing” to offer plea bargains to UK taxpayers. Law firm Pinsent Masons have reported a fall from 549 in 2016/17 to 486 in 17/18 and 438 in 18/19. Once a last resort solution for those with significant tax exposures they are now sought by those with more modest liabilities too.
Through the various “making tax digital” initiatives and cross-border cooperation disclosing the beneficiaries of overseas deposits HMRC has more information available to them. Add to this the fact that HMRC’s claims will shortly become preferential too; their hand is being further strengthened. They appear increasingly willing to flex their considerable muscles.
Anyone struggling with debt, in particular to HMRC, should take advice sooner rather than later. If you approach HMRC with details of the problem and suggested solutions they are more likely to be amenable than after their enforcement team have come knocking on your door demanding payment.