Former Hunters chairman and MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake (pictured) has revealed that 15 years ago his then fledgling firm was approached by its accountants with an offer to help it aggressively avoid tax.
His comments were made during a parliamentary debate on an the Finance (No.2) Bill going through parliament, which aims to reduce levels of aggressive tax avoidance within the construction and other industries.
Hollinrake, who supports the HM Treasury-sponsored Bill, told fellow MPs that he and his fellow executives at the estate agency at the time believed that “people should pay their tax and that we should all pay a fair amount of tax” and that those who aggressively avoid tax should expect HMRC to come knocking at their door sooner or later.
“Had the person who promoted that scheme to us — our accountant —thought that he would potentially end up on jail, I do not think he would have come to us and told us about it,” said Hollinrake.
“This was a reputable local person, and perhaps he did not even think that tax avoidance at that point was fraud.
“Nevertheless, it certainly can be fraud, and in many cases it is. If we are willing to hold people to account, ultimately through a criminal prosecution — as HMRC can, of course, as the Minister pointed out earlier — there would be a lot less of this kind of promotion and a lot fewer of these activities.”
He went on to say that the biggest problem was ‘faith in the system’ and that the estimated £20 billion tax avoidance black hole in the system could lead to the ‘ordinary person in the street’ wondering why they are being so compliant when others are dodging their responsibilities.