Tax collectors are unfairly targeting microbusinesses while ignoring the tax avoidance of larger companies and richer people, says the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) in response to a report this morning on Radio 4’s The Today Programme.

The programme featured the Artic Systems case, where small business owner, Geoff Jones, and his wife spent five years in a legal battle with HMRC over a tax-dodging offence they hadn’t committed.

Simon McVicker, Director of Policy and External Affairs at IPSE, said:

“The way HMRC are fiercely pursuing independent professionals while turning a blind eye to tax avoidance tactics by big business is completely unfair and is stifling the important work of microbusinesses up and down the country, which will in turn affect economic growth.

“Tax avoidance on all levels is wrong, but in light of the recent HSBC allegations, HMRC are picking on innocent individuals while big business are getting away with wrongdoing lightly. One of IPSE’s top priorities is to support microbusinesses who are being unfairly treated by HMRC.”

IPSE funded Mr Jones’ case, which he eventually won when the House of Lords ruled that he hadn’t avoided tax payments.

IPSE believes microbusinesses are an easy target for HMRC which is “stifling” the work of independent professionals across the country. The calls from IPSE come following allegations that HMRC are not going far enough to prosecute wealthy individuals such as those involved in the HSBC scandal.

HMRC issued the following statement, via the BBC:

“We treat all taxpayers impartially, but our specific approach will depend on the scale and complexity of the taxpayer. How we deal with individuals in PAYE with the simplest tax affairs is obviously different to how we intervene with a large and complex business, but the principles that we apply are exactly the same.

“Our aim is to help all businesses to get their taxes right, and help those who make mistakes to correct them as quickly as possible. Like any very large organisation, we know we sometimes make mistakes, and it’s important that when we do we admit to our errors and put things right.

“Being impartial also means that we will always come down hard on those who deliberately try to cheat the tax system, whether they are wealthy individuals, large businesses or SMEs. We have a wide range of powers to tackle tax cheats, and we select the most appropriate for the circumstances and for collecting the tax due.

“The UK’s five million small businesses are the life blood of the economy and we want to help them to flourish, which is why we’re helping tens of thousands of businesses to claim a range of tax reliefs, and have helped almost a million employers to claim a £2,000 national insurance rebate through the Employment Allowance. We have also created an online tax account that more than two million businesses are using to keep track of their tax affairs, and we help hundreds of thousands of small businesses to stagger their tax debts through time to pay arrangements.”