BBC Panorama uncovers scale of the UK tax evasion industry

Bypassing HMRC.

A security guard stands outside HMRC. Photograph: Getty Images

A BBC Panorama programme to be aired tonight uncovers the scale of the UK tax evasion industry and the ease at which companies are bypassing HMRC.

The joint investigation with The Guardian newspaper and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists secretly filmed companies that promote complicated tax evasion schemes at home and abroad.

The BBC reports that one such company advises an undercover journalist posing as a businessman with £6m in undeclared income to move the money to a anonymous foundation in tax haven Belize, which he could control without detection.

The representative tells the reporter that his company has 10,000 similar operations currently set up and that HMRC “don’t have the money” to uncover them.

Tax evasion is estimated to cost the British taxpayer over £4bn a year and a groundswell of public and political anger has been growing recently following the cases involving Starbucks, Google and Amazon, and after public figures were found to be using such schemes.

The programme also found that the use of sham directors is still prevalent, with a Dubai-based company, Atlas Corporate Services, revealing a list of 19 nominee directors that held more than 6,000 UK company directorships.

Panorama also approached other firms posing as the representative of corrupt Indian government figures who wanted to invest in the UK.

However, Russell Lebe, Managing Director of Readymade Companies Worldwide, told an undercover reporter that, if approached by the Indian authorities about tax evasion, "we wouldn't give a monkey's".