HMRC targets takeaways in suspected electronic till fraud probe

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Takeaways across England have been subject to unannounced inspections as part of an Electronic Sales Suppression (ESS) probe by HMRC.

The action took place at a total of 17 different outlets in London, Ipswich, Manchester and Newcastle between 22nd February and 20th March.

It follows several separate till fraud enquiries, which include the arrest of a 47-year-old man in Manchester on 21st February, plus voluntary interview invitations issued to four people in the Cheshire area.

HMRC is aware that some takeaways are using ESS tools which are either software or devices that alter electronic point-of-sale records. They are used to under-report a business’s sales and consequently evade tax.

On the surface, a transaction might appear to go through as normal, but ESS tools enable records to be manipulated – sometimes by deleting sales and linking to either domestic or offshore payment platforms.

HMRC says it has robust methods in place to combat ESS in the takeaway industry, including accessing data from external sources, such as bank statements and transaction records from online food ordering platforms. This includes payments some platforms facilitate between takeaways and wholesalers. The information is then compared against a business’s declared income to identify any discrepancies.

Anyone using, supplying, making or promoting ESS can face fines of up to £50,000 or criminal prosecution.

HMRC is encouraging anyone using ESS to come forward and use the disclosure facility on GOV.UK. The longer a business takes to disclose information, the higher it says the financial penalties will likely be. It is also encouraging anyone with information regarding ESS or any form of tax fraud to make contact online.

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