HMRC responds to Diane Abbott’s call for UK Scientology fraud investigation

The Chief Executive of HM Revenue and Customs, the UK’s tax office, has responded to former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott’s request for an investigation into the Church of Scientology’s finances after she cited concerns over their “history of fraudulent activity internationally”.

The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP, who has been in Parliament since 1987, wrote to HMRC in January after Scientology Business Editor Alexander Barnes-Ross contacted her with concerns about Scientology’s activities in the UK. Referencing a 2023 tax ruling in which Scientology chapels were granted partial relief from Business Rates tax, she said in her response “I have written to HMRC, who brought the case against the Church of Scientology for ruling that their “chapel” was a place of worship, urging them to look again at options to appeal this decision and also to more broadly investigate the churches finances for fraudulent activity.”

We can now reveal that HMRC have responded to Ms. Abbott’s request, with Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary Jim Harra replying “clamping down on those who try to cheat the system through evading taxes and overclaiming benefits is a key priority for us.”

HMRC Chief Executive Jim Harra responded to calls for an investigation into Scientology’s finances

“We have a duty to maintain confidentiality to all the information we hold about people and organisations. This means that we cannot disclose information about a particular case, including any steps we may take based on information we have received” he wrote. “We assess all the information we receive, and then decide on the most appropriate course of action to take.”

It is understandable that he was unable to confirm whether any action is being taken in response to Abbott’s letter, however Harra did demonstrate knowledge of last year’s lawsuit, writing “On 5 January 2023, the Upper Tribunal published its decision on the Church of Scientology’s claim for partial exemption from non-domestic rating on premises which it occupies at 146 Queen Victoria Street, London. The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) decided not to appeal the decision and is now out of time to do so.”

He concluded the letter with the contact details for who to contact with regard to concerns about the ruling “or evidence that the Church of Scientology services are [not] open to the public”.

The letter demonstrates the significance of Diane Abbott’s support in the bid to raise awareness about Scientology’s activities in the UK. HMRC did not respond with a blanket, nondescript auto-reply but instead caught the attention of the CEO who personally responded and cited the 2023 court case. This means it’s on her radar – thanks to the weight her support provides.

Abbott was the first black female to be elected to Parliament and has held several senior positions both in government and the Shadow Cabinet. In 2017, an Amnesty International report found she receives ten times more abuse than any other MP and that half of all abusive tweets directed at female MPs were targeted towards her. We couldn’t think of a better prepared politician when it comes to dealing with Scientology’s ‘Fair Game’ tactics.

Last month, actress Leah Remini released a statement applauding Abbott’s support, writing on The Underground Bunker “The fact that Alex has an MP who is not shying away from seeking the truth is an accomplishment in itself. I support him, and I thank him — and Ms. Abbott — for asking the UK’s equivalent of the IRS to open a real investigation of Scientology.”

“If they are not thwarted by Scientology’s usual evasive tactics, they will be successful in exposing this business-for-profit masquerading as a religion around the globe.”

After contacting HMRC’s press department for comment, a spokesperson told us: “We neither confirm nor deny investigations and cannot comment on identifiable individuals or businesses.”

You can read Harra’s response to Diane Abbott in full below.

This website is entirely independent and reader-funded.
Please consider helping to keep it up and running with a donation.


Don't miss out! Sign up to our free newsletter below.

Please confirm:

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.


Please confirm:

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Alexander Barnes-Ross

Scientology Business provides analysis and commentary on the Church of Scientology's corporate structure, business operations and functions in the United Kingdom and Europe. The website looks at Scientology's shell companies, financial records and maps the web of international corporate entities responsible for their UK and European activities.

You May Also Like