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VAT the name of the game...

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Customs and Excise has denied that its national investigation service is specifically targeting IT inward investors - viewed as high-profile and lucrative targets - in a revenue-raising plan. But representatives of inward investors have met Customs to seek reassurances that they are not being singled out for heavy-handed treatment. There are concerns that high-profile Customs raids will deter large high-tech companies from investing in the UK. Although companies that fear they are being targeted are loath to go public, there are efforts being made to try and negotiate with Customs. In Scotland, a consultative committee, including lawyers and accountants, acting on behalf of inward investors has met Customs. "Very few of these cases are downright fraud," said David Moore, partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers in Glasgow. "But Customs appear happy to let companies arrive and operate for a few years, so that the value of allegedly unpaid duty builds up." The investigations arm of Customs and Excise is believed to be concerned that high-tech firms are evading VAT by undervaluing equipment that comes into the UK. Customs is concerned with claims that companies are importing the same goods from number of countries and paying VAT only on the lowest price. Customs denied that high-tech companies were being specifically targeted. "There is no investigations going on into high-tech companies," said a Customs spokesperson. "But if companies are under-declaring VAT then they should not be doing it."

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