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Side Hustles and Tax: HMRC Efforts to Reduce Evasion


Person taking a picture of their top ready to sell online and make a profit

With HMRC boosting its tax enforcement team by 3,000 new officers at the end of 2023 and new rules this year requiring websites like Vinted, eBay and Depop to report income made by users (income must surpass £1,700 or exceed 30 transactions), now is the time to ensure your taxes are up to date.


The report shared by HMRC last year on the 'tax gap' - the difference between the amount of tax that should, in theory, be paid to HMRC and the amount that is paid - shows that 35% of this gap is from Income Tax, National Insurance and Capital Gains Tax, leading HMRC to focus on collecting tax from small businesses and the self-employed.


Figure 1.3 Tax gap by type of tax – share of tax gap, 2017 to 2018 to 2021 to 2022
Figure 1.3 Tax gap by type of tax – share of tax gap, 2017 to 2018 to 2021 to 2022


This article outlines the importance of getting your tax right. It also covers HMRC's advanced ways of spotting tax evasion and gives useful advice for staying compliant. You'll learn about their use of technology for data analysis and their undercover strategies, and what follows is a guide for anyone, including businesses, looking to stay on top of their tax duties in light of HMRC's enhanced efforts.


When To Register With HMRC

In the UK, once you generate an income of £1,000 you are liable to register for self-assessment.

If you are earning an income from a side hustle, such as selling on websites like eBay, or generating a substantial income and not declaring your income and paying tax, you are at risk.


In the UK, once you generate an income of £1,000 you are liable to register for self-assessment, irrespective of whether you have generated a profit or not. For example, if you have earned £1,000 and paid out expenses of over £1,000, you will have made a loss - but HMRC still wants to know about it! You must still register for self-assessment, although you will not be required to pay tax in this instance.



5 Other Ways HMRC Knows You Should Be Registered


Below we have outlined some of the ways HMRC can uncover if you are due to pay tax.


▶ The Power of Connect: Advanced Data Analysis


HMRC's state-of-the-art system, Connect, is at the forefront of tax compliance. This powerful tool cross-references vast amounts of data, creating intricate networks that link individuals to various financial details. Connect’s ability to swiftly analyse complex information helps HMRC detect irregularities and hidden economic activities, ensuring a higher level of tax compliance.


▶ Undercover Inspections: The Role of Mystery Shoppers


In an intriguing approach, HMRC inspectors often operate incognito, assuming the role of customers in various businesses. This method is particularly effective in sectors like the hospitality industry, where cash transactions are prevalent. By closely observing operations and transactions, these undercover agents can identify discrepancies in reported income.


▶ The Importance of Informers


Despite technological advancements, HMRC still relies heavily on information from informers. These can range from personal acquaintances to former employees, providing valuable insights into potential tax evasion cases. Such tips are a crucial component in HMRC's arsenal, often leading to significant findings and tax recoveries.


▶ Statistical Analysis


HMRC uses a statistical test - the chi-squared test - to check if financial records are true. This test looks at how often different numbers appear in financial data and it's good at finding numbers that might have been made up. This shows HMRC is really smart in using maths to make sure people are paying the right tax.


▶ Leveraging Third-Party Data


HMRC's access to extensive third-party data, such as property transactions and vehicle registrations, plays a vital role in building comprehensive financial profiles. This approach enables HMRC to spot inconsistencies between declared income and lifestyle indicators, further tightening the net on tax evasion.


Taking Action: Guidance and Support


Understanding these sophisticated methods underscores the importance of accurate and complete tax declarations. If you find tax matters daunting or need clarity on your tax responsibilities, seeking professional advice is a wise step. For tailored guidance, consider booking a call with us for help navigating through these complexities.


If you are overwhelmed by the thought of organising your business finances and have instead avoided them, the government-funded financial support, Access to Work, may be what you need to get them sorted.



Profit Maximiser for Sole Traders

Additionally, to further your understanding and ensure you're making the most of legitimate tax-saving opportunities, sign up for our guide to help you keep more profit and pay less tax. This resource offers valuable insights into legal ways to minimise your tax liabilities, helping you stay compliant and avoid penalties from HMRC.


Navigating the intricacies of tax compliance can be challenging, but with the right information and assistance you can confidently fulfil your obligations and avoid falling foul of HMRC’s advanced detection methods. Remember, staying informed and proactive is key to managing your taxes effectively.


Stay Close for Updates!


Throughout 2024, we will share useful tips and strategies to help you stay on top of your personal and business finances. Simply come back and check out our Insights area, or give us a follow on LinkedIn and/or Instagram!


If you want to dive deeper into building a personal or business strategy and action plan, send us a message or book a call.




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