Up to 50,000 businesses that have one or more VAT returns outstanding will be targeted as part of a new campaign reminding firms of their duty to bring their tax affairs up to date.
The companies are being urged to pay the tax they owe by 28 February – those that fail to comply will be subject to closer scrutiny from the HMRC.
Marian Wilson, head of HMRC campaigns, said: “If HMRC has sent you a VAT return and you have not yet taken any action, this campaign is a reminder to bring your tax affairs up to date. But time is running out.
“After 28 February, if they have not submitted their outstanding VAT returns and paid what they owe, HMRC will use its legal powers to pursue outstanding returns and any VAT that is unpaid. Penalties, or even criminal investigation, could follow.”