HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has given solicitors a week to pay the tax they owe on undeclared income or “face hefty penalties”.
A spokesman for HMRC said solicitors who failed to come forward voluntarily faced paying penalties of 100% on the unpaid tax and a criminal investigation.
“The penalty would normally be between 0% and 20%, depending on circumstances,” he said.
“Solicitors who do not come forward but are found to have unpaid tax liabilities will face higher penalties, rising to 100% of the tax unpaid or, possibly, criminal investigation. Penalties for offshore-related income can be up to 200%.”
The solicitors’ tax campaign, launched in December last year, is the HMRC’s latest “voluntary disclosure opportunity”, following campaigns aimed at medical professionals, plumbers, tutors, electricians, landlords and others.
HMRC said the campaigns had raised over £1bn from voluntary disclosures and follow-ups. Solicitors were given until 9 March this year to tell HMRC that they would like to take part in the campaign.
The spokesman said solicitors who made a full disclosure of tax owed would be offered a “simple and straightforward way” to put their tax affairs right, and online tools were available to help them work out how much they owe.
He said previous campaigns resulted in a number of criminal investigations and the conviction of 14 people for cheating the Revenue.
Caroline Addison, head of campaigns at HMRC, added: “This disclosure scheme gives firms a fair chance to come forward and avoid tough penalties, but we will not hesitate to investigate and penalise those still evading tax they owe once this opportunity passes.
“We don’t think it’s too much to ask that solicitors abide by the law and pay the tax they owe.”
For more information, solicitors can phone a dedicated helpline on 0300 013 4749 or visit www.gov.uk/solicitors-tax-campaign. The deadline is 9 June 2015.