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HMRC sets sights on offshore accounts



The government has stepped up measures to target tax avoidance, launching an advertising campaign amid a G20 agreement in the global fight against evaders.

The new campaign will target offshore account holders in the government’s latest step in its clampdown on tax evasion, with HMRC saying, “The days of hiding money in another country to cheat the UK are coming to an end”.

The advertising campaign was launched by the chancellor George Osborne on Monday and will build on information sharing agreements with crown dependencies, overseas territories and HMRC, which the department claims will allow it access to more information and data “than ever before” on offshore accounts.

Sanctions against those not paying the tax they owe could include fines of up to 200% of that amount or imprisonment.

Osborne said, “Last year the Prime Minister put tax at the heart of the UK’s G8 agenda, leading to groundbreaking consensus on the action needed to bring greater transparency and fairness to the global tax system”.

“The G20 took up the baton and at this meeting we agreed the next steps in the international fight against tax avoidance and evasion”.

He added that the government is on the side of the majority of people and companies who pay their fair share in tax.

“By taking global action to reform the system alongside a tough approach to enforcing the law at home, we will close the net on those who think they do not have to play by the rules. This is a victory for Britain’s international agenda and the fight against wrong doing”, he said.

The moves come after agreements were reached over the weekend in Australia, where G20 finance ministers endorsed a new global standard for the sharing of tax information between members, put forward by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Jennie Granger, director general for enforcement and compliance at HMRC said, “Most people with offshore assets do the right thing and tell us about them, and therefore have nothing to worry about. But for the minority who don’t, the net is closing around them”.

She added, “We are getting more and more information that helps us to target offshore tax cheats more effectively than ever before. If you have assets offshore you need to get in touch with us urgently, because we will catch up with you. That can mean a fine of 200 per cent of the tax that you owe, and the possibility of criminal prosecution and a prison sentence.”

Further reading:

New Fair Tax Mark highlights responsible businesses

HMRC ‘lost its nerve’ over corporate tax evasion, MPs say

MPs support Amazon Christmas boycott over tax avoidance

Barclays accused of promoting tax havens

Google, Amazon, etc: blame tax laws, not the taxman or taxpayer