Concerns have been raised that self-employed middle-class professionals who have made innocent errors in their self-assessment returns are being targeted by the government, after the Telegraph obtained figures showing that HMRC investigations have doubled in a single year.

Over the same period, the number of self-employed people quadrupled. The surge in investigations from 119,000 in 2011- 2012 to 237,215 in 2012-2013 has led one tax expert, Mark Giddens of the accountancy firm UHY Hacker and Young, to suggest that the taxman was focusing on middle-class “soft targets” who were more likely to pay up than challenge the bill, even though “the Revenue makes mistakes”.

Annual prosecutions have soared by sevenfold in the space of three years, evidencing heightened Revenue efforts to claw back some of the £35 billion in tax estimated to be lost every year.

The views of Mr Giddens were echoed by Tory MP Brooks Newmark, who claimed that self-employed professionals were “easy targets”. He added: “The year-end comes, they’ve filled in their forms and sometimes there are some errors there that HMRC may in previous years have left or not necessarily picked up, but they are now nit-picking. It doesn’t take away from the fact that this money is genuinely owed. But it’s the approach with which HMRC goes about it. When HMRC writes you a letter it causes a huge amount of stress.”

One sure way for professional freelancers to avoid investigations from HMRC arising from innocent mistakes is to begin contracting as Umbrella Company Employees, whereupon they can rest assured that their tax obligations will automatically be settled on a PAYE basis.

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