Andrew Swan

Member Article

HMRC clamp down on off-shore tax structures

HMRC has confirmed that it is working with the United States and Australian tax administrations on data, which reveals substantial use of intricate offshore structures to conceal assets by wealthy individuals and companies.

The data has so far revealed that there are companies and trusts involved in a number of territories around the world, including the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.

HMRC has confirmed that so far it has identified over 100 people who benefit from these structures and a number of those individuals had already been identified and are under investigation for offshore tax evasion. They have also identified more than 200 UK accountants, lawyers and other professional advisors who advise on setting up these structures who will also be scrutinised.

HMRC is encouraging voluntary compliance and early disclosure of tax irregularities. Failure to do so may result in a criminal prosecution or significant financial penalties and the possibility of identities being published.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, commented: “The message is simple: if you evade tax, we’re coming after you. The Government has invested hundreds of millions of pounds to fund the fight against tax evasion, both at home and abroad. This data is another weapon in HMRC’s arsenal. Ahead of the UK’s presidency of the G8 this year, the Prime Minister has made it a key priority to drive an international effort to increase transparency and clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion. By working with our international partners in this way, we are again demonstrating our commitment to this work.”

Jennie Granger, HMRC Commissioner and Director General for Enforcement and Compliance, said: “Working with the international tax community to pursue offshore evasion is another important step in closing the net on tax evasion.”

“There is nothing illegal about an international structure, especially in a globally integrated economy and these arrangements may be perfectly legitimate and may already have been declared to HMRC. However they may involve tax evasion, avoidance or other serious offences by taxpayers. What has to stop is using offshore structures to illegally hide assets and income.”

Andrew Swan, solicitor and Head of the Financial Crime Team at Newcastle-based law firm Short Richardson & Forth LLP commented: “Many of the structures referred to by HMRC are perfectly legal. However, anyone using such offshore structures should review their taxation arrangements to ensure they are compliant with UK tax law. They should seek advice when necessary.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Andrew Swan .

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