HM Revenue and Customs is to target fishing fessel
owners, skippers and crews as well as shore-based
processors in a bid to catch tax evaders.
The crackdown of the lucrative fishingsector will cover the whole of Scotland - which is home to three-quarters of the UK’s fishing industry.
A new taskforce has been created by HMRC in a bid to find around £3.6m in lost revenue.
As well as HM Revnue and Customs, Police Scotland, Immigration Enforcement officers, the Border Force and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority will be involved in the inquiry.
The unit hopes to hear from people with information about those in both the catching and processing sectors they suspect may be avoiding paying tax.
The inquiry will also examine migrant workers accessing benefits and public services, or abuse by employers.
The crackdown follows several recent court cases linked to illicit ‘black fish’ landings which resulted in large fines and seizure orders for those involved.
Orders have also been imposed on boat owners and companies involved in the mackerel and herring fisheries.
Commenting on the latest moves, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive, Bertie Armstrong, said that this was not an attack on the fishing industry, but an attack on tax evasion which happened across all sectors of society.
“The vat majority of the Scottish fishing industry will not be affected,” he said.
Meanwhile, Treasury Minister David Gauke, said that the vat majority of those working in the Scottish fishing industry were law-abiding citizens who paid the right taxes at the right time.
But he added that their livelihoods were often undermined by those who did not play by the rules. We are determined to support those hard-working people who want to get on in this industry and every other,” he said. “The government has made it clear that we will not tolerate tax evasion and we have provided HMRC with the resources to crack down on those who break the rules.”
Jennie Granger, HMRC’s director general of enforcement and compliance, said that their message was clear and simple.
“If you seek to evade tax or defraud the tax system, HMRC can and will track you down.
“You will face not only a heavy fine, but possibly a criminal prosecution.
“Collaboration with other government departments and agencies will mean there is a co-ordinated approach to risks in this industry,” she added.