Takeaways on Tyneside have been subject to unannounced inspections as part of a nationwide till fraud investigation.

Seven Newcastle premises received unexpected visits by officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as part of an inquiry into what is known as electronic sales suppression (ESS).

Ten other outlets were also targeted, in London, Ipswich and Manchester, as part of the same ESS probe into suspected attempts at tax evasion over the last month.

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

The Northern Echo: HMRC investigation into suspected till fraud included unannoiunced visits to seven takeaway

HMRC said it is aware 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.

The Northern Echo: National investigation into suspected till fraud included raids on seven Tyneside takeawaysd

In a bid to combat ESS in the takeaway industry, HMRC said it has robust methods in place, 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.

The Northern Echo:

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

HMRC said those involved should come forward and use the disclosure facility on GOV.UK, as, the longer a business takes to disclose information, the higher the financial penalties are likely to be in the long term.

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Anyone with information regarding ESS or any form of tax fraud is urged to contact HMRC online.

The seven premises in Newcastle were visited between March 13 and 20.

More information about ESS can be found on , or via