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Tax avoidance - don't get caught out

Tax avoidance is when people bend the rules of the tax system to pay less than they owe. It also means that the vital public services we all use like hospitals and schools, don’t get the money they need.

The personal cost

When someone uses a tax avoidance scheme, they take on all of the risk. That is because each of us is responsible under UK law for paying the correct amount of tax. That even applies if you have appointed someone else to deal with your affairs or if you are given bad advice.

If you are caught using a tax avoidance scheme, you’ll have to pay the tax that is legally due, plus interest and you may have to pay a penalty. That is on top of any fees that you’ve paid the person who sold you the scheme.

You might think tax avoidance is difficult to spot, or that you need to be a real expert. It is actually fairly straightforward. HMRC is here to help you spot the warning signs.

Stop, challenge, protect

If something looks too good to be true, then it almost certainly is.

If you are worried about becoming involved in tax avoidance, or are using an avoidance scheme and want to get out but do not know how, we are here to help you.

Stop, and take your time

Don’t sign anything that you are uncomfortable with or don’t understand. People selling avoidance won’t always explain how it actually works. Ask them to explain it clearly so you know what you are signing and what it means.

If you’re unsure, seek independent professional advice.

Challenge what you're being told

Check for warning signs:

  • Is the contract incredibly complicated?
  • Are they claiming you’ll take home more money than you would have expected?
  • Will you get a cash bonus if you recommend a friend?

Protect yourself and others

If you think you have been offered a tax avoidance scheme, report it to HMRC. Or if you need help getting out of one, contact us.

See full guidance from HMRC on

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