Data shows rise in honours candidates deemed ‘high-risk’ over tax affairs

HMRC vetting procedure identifies possible concerns

Credit: GDS/CC BY 2.0

Government data has revealed that there was a rise last year in the number of people nominated for honours that were found to have significant issues with their tax affairs.

The Honours and Appointments Secretariat in the Cabinet Office asks various departments to undertake “probity checks” on people that have been nominated for honours. The results of such checks – and any red flags they uncover – are then fed back to the independent committees that consider honours nominations. These committees then use this information in deciding whether to recommend nominees are submitted to the prime minister and the queen, who give final approval for receipt of the honour.

HM Revenue and Customs is typically asked to conduct checks of nominees’ tax affairs, and assign each a risk rating of low, medium, or high.

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Before last year, the number of nominees deemed to be “high risk” in respect of their tax affairs had been five or fewer for each of the previous four years; in instances where the figure is so low, HMRC does not specify a number, in case the identity of those in question is deducible.

But, in 2020, six people with significant issues in their tax affairs made it onto the honours shortlist, newly published government data reveals. This is the first time the number has been high enough to be reported since 2014 and 2015, when it stood at 12 and 9, respectively.

Last year there were also 11 people nominated for an honour whose tax affairs were found to be of “medium risk”.

Of the total of 727 honours nominees assessed by HMRC, 2.3% were found to have some issues with their tax affairs that were deemed to pose a risk to their nomination.

“Checks are requested on a proportionate basis, taking account of the level of the honour and the profile of the individual,” the department said.

It is not known whether HMRC’s assessments had any impact on whether or not the individuals in question were ultimately submitted by honours committees for royal and prime ministerial approval.


Sam Trendall

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