HM Revenue & Customs has ramped up the number of raids on premises it investigates for suspected tax evasion, with the figure predicted to rise further.
According to international firm Pinsent Masons, HMRC searched 761 properties this year, a 28% increase on last year when it carried out 593 raids.
The figures, released following a freedom of information request, relate to the period from 31 March 2015 to 1 April this year.
Five years ago there were 499 searches carried out.
The firm said an extension of the ‘failure to prevent’ deterrent, which the government is due to consult on, could lead to more raids.
Earlier this month, the Gazette reported that the government was hoping to extend the scope of the ‘failure to prevent’ criminal offence beyond and bribery to include money laundering, false accounting and fraud.
Paul Noble, a tax director at the firm, said: ‘Criminal prosecutions for tax evasion can be notoriously difficult to bring to court, so raiding property is a vital way for HMRC to get hold of the crucial evidence it needs.
‘The new corporate offence will add another dimension. Companies will be a target in themselves in terms of what they knew about suspected criminal activity by those working for them and what they did or didn’t do to prevent it.’
Noble added that the new law will require investigators to trawl through documents, which they will need to time to identify and ring-fence before going through evidence.
‘For businesses and individuals this is likely to be a very intrusive and disruptive process, but one which HMRC appears to see as increasingly necessary,’ he added.
The news comes as shadow chancellor John McDonnell (pictured) used his speech at Labour’s annual conference today to pledge that his party would clamp down on tax avoidance should they get into power.
‘In government we will end the social scourge of tax avoidance,’ he said, adding ‘we will create a new tax enforcement unit at HMRC, doubling the number of staff investigating wealthy tax avoiders. We will ban tax-dodging companies from winning public sector contracts’.
He added that Labour would ensure that all British Crown dependencies and overseas territories introduce a full, public register of company owners and beneficiaries.