Speaking last week about HMRC's Tax Health Plan (THP) at a debate hosted by the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Dave Hartnett said HMRC had obtained data suggesting that the problem for this group was bigger than it had first thought.
'A common feature of our campaigns is that they address a sector or a group where there is a serious tax risk,' HMRC's permanent secretary for tax said.
Doctors who have failed to disclose all their earnings have until 31 March 2010 to notify HMRC. They then have a further three months, to 30 June, to submit their disclosure and make full payment.
If they do this, the tax penalty they face is just 10 per cent of the amount of tax owed. But Mr Hartnett said HMRC would use data it holds to go after people who did not come forward under THP.
GPs found to owe tax on income going back up to 20 years could face a maximum penalty of 100 per cent of the tax owed, on top of full repayment of the debt and interest on it.
'Our campaigns are an opportunity for people to get their tax affairs right,' said Mr Hartnett.
BMA private practice committee chairman Mr Derek Machin said at the debate that he had initially understood all professions, not just medical and dental, were to be targeted by HMRC. 'There has been a lot of comment about why doctors, and why doctors now.'
Mr Hartnett said that HMRC had to start somewhere, and expected to look at a variety of trades and professions.
'There is no particular reason why doctors and dentists are first,' he said. 'We have risk assessed doctors and dentists and we have found a material level of non-compliance.
'Doctors are bigger earners (than many) with the capacity to save a bit more than others.
They are a sensibly defined group we can work with.'
Mr Hartnett was dismissive of the notion that failure to declare income could be down to a mistake. 'As a time-served investigator I have never met a member of the medical profession who was fiddling their taxes and did not know they were fiddling,' he said, adding that the same applied to other groups.
- Visit www.hmrc.gov.uk for details of the Tax Health Plan.