In recent years, the issue of tax fraud has become an ever-growing concern all around the world. Governments and Tax authorities, such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the United Kingdom, have a way to combat this problem. One crucial tool in their arsenal is the use of whistleblowers—individuals who come forward with information about tax fraud. However, a recent report by law firm RPC suggests HMRC should increase the rewards it pays out to whistleblowers in line with the US system.
From RPC’s research, HMRC paid over £509,000 to whistleblowers who provided evidence related to tax fraud in the past year. That figure is up from £495,000 in 2021/22 and a 75% increase from the £290,000 paid five years ago, the law firm added however it still pales to the rewards offered by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The IRS operates on a much more generous scale when rewarding whistleblowers. In the US, individuals who provide information that leads to additional tax collections can receive anywhere from 15% to 30% of the recovered funds. In 2022 alone, the IRS paid an astounding $37.8 million to 132 whistleblowers—a staggering 58 times the amount paid to whistleblowers in the UK during the same period.
Adam Craggs, Partner and Head of RPC’s Tax, Financial Crime, and Regulatory team, argues that the stark difference in rewards between the UK and the US systems could be a significant factor hindering whistleblowers from coming forward. Craggs states, “More individuals, with evidence of serious tax fraud, would come forward if they knew they could be in line for a life-changing amount of money.”
Indeed, the potential for substantial financial rewards is a powerful motivator for whistleblowers. It encourages individuals to expose fraudulent activities and ensures that the HMRC can gather the information necessary to pursue criminal convictions and recover funds that would go unnoticed.
Craggs suggests it’s time for HMRC to reconsider its approach and bring it more in line with the US system. While the UK has been making payments to informants on a needed basis for many years, there is a strong case for formalising and improving the system. By doing so, HMRC can increase its effectiveness in tackling tax fraud while motivating more individuals to step forward and assist in these critical efforts.
In conclusion, the issue of tax fraud is a global challenge, and it requires innovative approaches to combat it effectively. HMRC’s current system of rewarding whistleblowers, while showing improvement, still falls far short of the incentives offered by the US IRS.