Commuter belt St Albans leads the UK for admitting unpaid tax

Publications that covered this story include the Daily Telegraph and The I on 18 February 2019.
  • Edinburgh, Bristol and Oxford all feature in Top Ten for disclosing unpaid tax
  • HMRC crackdown on tax avoidance prompting individuals to come forward
  • Top UK towns for admitting unpaid tax revealed

St Albans leads the UK for individuals admitting unpaid tax.

Our research shows in St Albans there were 24* disclosures of unpaid tax per 100,000 population last year. Edinburgh was second with 23, followed by Slough with 19.

London (15 per 100,000), Bristol (14) and Oxford (14) also featured in the Top Ten (see table).

St Albans is part of the wealthy commuter belt that spans Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Essex and is home to many City workers due to its good travel connections. The city is one of an elite group of 18 local areas in the UK where average house prices exceed £500,000, with famous residents including actor Rupert Grint, and musicians Cheryl Cole and Zayn Malik.

Postcodes with high numbers of disclosures tend to be wealthier with residents that have complex tax affairs. These individuals are more likely to make a disclosure.

HMRC’s crackdown on the use of tax planning schemes by High Net Worths may have driven the number of disclosures in some areas by prompting individuals to come forward. If a taxpayer comes forward voluntarily then HMRC is likely to be more lenient when issuing penalties.

HMRC has put significant resources into investigating the affairs of High Net Worths in recent years. HMRC has several specialist teams dedicated to this taxpayer group, including the new ‘Offshore Corporate and Wealthy Unit’, which launched over 800 investigations alone last year.

England & Wales saw 11 disclosures per 100,000 population on average last year, with a total of approximately 6,380 disclosures made overall**.

Andrew Snowdon, tax partner in our London office, says: “Tax avoidance is not restricted to super-rich neighbourhoods of London such as Kensington and Chelsea. A lot of middle-income earners have been sucked into tax schemes over the last two decades.”

“Some very normal commuter belt towns like Slough are minor hotspots for admitting unpaid tax which may reflect their residents’ views on the rising tax burden in areas like income tax and SDLT.”

“Coming forward to make a tax disclosure is a far better option then burying your head in the sand as many people last year realized.”

“HMRC is prone to take a much more lenient approach if a disclosure is made unprompted. A prompted disclosure could result in fines of up to 100% of the tax owed.”

“As HMRC continues to beef up its compliance teams and data resources, there is increasingly nowhere to hide for those with unpaid tax bills.”

“Making a disclosure it almost always the best way to deal with an irregular tax position but it’s important to seek professional advice before doing so in order to get the best possible settlement.”

The top UK towns and cities for the highest number of individuals admitting unpaid tax revealed – disclosures per 100,000 population

*HMRC 2019; year-end 31st March
**Does not include areas where there were fewer than 5 disclosures last year