A taskforce has been launched to recover more than £2.5m from tax dodging food and drink outlets in the Solent and south east region.
The HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) taskforce will visit traders to examine their records and carry out other investigations. David Gauke, the Exchequer Secretary, said: “We have made it clear that we will not tolerate tax evasion and we are determined to crack down on the minority who choose to break the rules.
“Everyone needs to pay the taxes they owe in full. It is not fair that at a time when most hard-working people are paying the right tax, others are trying to get out of paying what they should.”
Alex Nicholson, a senior manager in the Southampton office of accountants James Cowper, said: “HMRC clearly has a taste for clamping down on restaurants it believes are deliberately ‘cooking the books’ to avoid paying the correct amounts of tax.
“It is likely that the taxman already has a pretty clear idea of the restaurants it wishes to target, most likely those businesses HMRC’s computer believes do not fit within industry norms.”
Andy Hamman, senior tax manager at BDO LLP Southampton, said it was a “significant move” by HMRC.
He said the taskforce would target the industry with “renewed vigour” as it believed it should be seeing more revenues.
“These focused campaigns are a very cost effective way for HMRC to target a particular segment of the business community where they believe there may be discrepancies between what tax is due and the tax actually paid,” he said.
Results from the last restaurant taskforce in 2011, found £634,000 in unpaid tax from 45 businesses and launched prosecutions against more than 20 businesses for deliberate fraud.