HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC's) possession of data in respect of offshore bank account holders has attracted significant public attention, and the department is under pressure from the Public Accounts Committee to take firm action in respect of taxpayers suspected of offshore tax evasion.
While to date HMRC has undertaken very few criminal prosecutions, the weight of public and parliamentary opinion is likely to influence an increase in such action going forwards, not only with the information already available to HMRC, but also in respect of the offshore account holders notified to HMRC in the future as the number of Tax Information Exchange Agreements increase.
There are currently a variety of opportunities available for the disclosure of offshore tax irregularities to HMRC in exchange for favourable settlement terms. The current disclosure opportunities close in December 2015 and will be replaced by a less favourable 'last chance' opportunity, to run until mid-2017. It is expected that HMRC will take strong action against those who choose not to disclose.
Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary has also unveiled plans to introduce a new strict liability criminal offence for offshore evasion. A strict liability offence is a criminal offence where it is not necessary for the court to ascertain the state of mind of the defendant before convicting. This change means that the prosecution would need to only demonstrate that a person failed to correctly declare the income or gains, and not that they did so with the intention of defrauding the Exchequer.
How we can help you
Whether you are considering making a disclosure to HMRC or your tax affairs are currently under investigation, our team of tax investigation specialists are here to provide you with expert support in respect of bringing your UK and offshore tax affairs up to date.
If you have overseas assets that haven't been declared to HMRC, making a voluntary disclosure will often lead to more favourable settlement terms and less scope for criminal prosecution, than if HMRC initiates contact.
There are a number of different disclosure facilities available, and we can advise on the options that are available to you.
We can help you clearly identify any tax that you owe. We can then negotiate with HMRC on your behalf to agree a settlement, covering the tax liability itself and any penalties.
For a free, no obligation and confidential discussion, call us on call us on 0845 868 2050.