The chancellor George Osborne has unveiled tougher measures to crack down on people hiding their money in overseas accounts in order to avoid paying income tax in the UK.
People who are found to be evading tax could face bigger fines or even jail under new government plans, which will see the introduction of a criminal offence for hiding money offshore.
Osborne said, “If you are hiding your money offshore, we are coming to get you and the criminal law is going to come and find you.
“When it comes to the international business tax system, no one country can deal with that alone, which is why Britain has led the way […] to make sure that we’ve got international rules that fit the modern economy including the modern digital economy”.
The plans are expected to go out to consultation, to allow the public to have an input into the new regulation. Some have criticised the plans however, describing them as “horrifying”.
Bill Dodwell, head of tax at Deloitte told the Times newspaper, “People should not be put in prison unless you can prove intent. I’m shocked to find that an offence which could lead to a prison sentence could be decided on a strict-liability basis”.
He added, “If this change applies to all evasion cases I think that’s unacceptable”.
The Labour party responded to the announcement by saying that the measures did not go far enough. Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s shadow exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said, “For all the tough talk, this government is failing to tackle tax avoidance and evasion”.
“The amount of uncollected tax rose last year and the chancellor’s Swiss tax deal has raised less than a quarter of the revenues promised”.
HMRC recently launched an advertising campaign targeting offshore account holders. The organisation warned, “The days of hiding money in another country to cheat the UK are coming to an end.”
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