HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has launched a new taskforce aimed at tackling VAT abuse at fast food outlets in London. The taskforce is the fourth to be launched by the department since May and follows last month's campaign targeting restaurants in the capital. HMRC had initially announced that its taskforces would focus on the London restaurant sector, and would be expanded to the North-West of England and Scotland later in 2011 and into 2012. It believes that there is a problem with some fast food outlets deliberately falsifying their records and mis-declaring their true sales levels in order to avoid paying the correct amount of tax. Mike Wells, HMRC director of risk and intelligence, said the government will "come down hard" on businesses that choose to break the law in order to save money. Lorraine Parkin, head of indirect tax at Grant Thornton said: "The food and beverage sector has to contend with some of the most complex VAT rules. In particular, 'take away' businesses must determine the VAT liability of supplies based on why food is heated or sold hot, and where it was actually consumed after it had been purchased. More recently, the very definition of the term 'catering' had to be considered by both the European Court of Justice and a UK court. "Although the announcement of these initiatives will be disappointing news for some in the sector, it does provide an opportunity for others to bring their affairs up to date. Any business in the sector that is uncertain about the liability of its supplies, or whether it has accounted for the correct amount of tax should review its position without delay in light of this latest announcement. "Businesses that are uncertain about whether their turnover has exceeded the VAT registration limit should check with their adviser or consult the HMRC website for more details. Those who notify HMRC by 30 September 2011 that they plan to make a voluntary disclosure about trading above the VAT threshold whilst unregistered may face reduced penalties."