Removal of disclosure facilities raises likelihood of taxation investigations

Those who hide their money abroad ‘at the expense of honest UK’ citizens are being reminded that a new crackdown could boost their chances of facing a taxation investigation.

Existing taxpayer disclosure facilities are being replaced. An expiry date of December 31, 2015 will see, among others, the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility wound down, giving tax evaders a matter of weeks in which to pay up or face next year’s tougher measures.

David Gauke, financial secretary to the Treasury, said the upgrade on current practice would see the introduction of a new criminal offence for offshore evasion, plus a separate one for corporations that fail to prevent evasion. Connected to these are stiffer financial penalties, one of which will be linked to the value of funds stored in an offshore bank. Civil penalties will target those who facilitate evasion.

Bolstering the practice are new international agreements that will see HMRC receive details on UK taxpayers’ financial affairs from more than 90 countries. The measure, which widens the scope of taxation investigations, will be rolled out in 2017.

Mr Gauke said: “Hiding money in another country at the expense of honest UK taxpayers is not acceptable and we have made it clear we will put a stop to it.

“Under our new regime, the small minority who evade tax offshore, facilitate or turn a blind eye to offshore tax evasion will face tougher sanctions.

“With over 90 jurisdictions now agreeing to automatic exchanges of information, the net is closing in on offshore tax evaders.”

Joining the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility in the December countdown is the Crown Dependency Disclosure Facilities. In late-November’s Autumn Statement, a further £800m was promised in the fight against tax evasion.

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