UK and International Tax news

HMRC Targets 6000 Swiss Bank Accounts

Wednesday 19th October 2011

HMRC has recently announced that it will be contacting UK residents and organisations holding Swiss bank accounts with the HSBC in Geneva who may not have reported all their income and gains to HMRC.

HMRC is acting on information received last year under the UK Swiss tax treaty which has revealed that more than 6,000 individuals, companies, trusts and other bodies held accounts and investments with HSBC Geneva. HMRC has already begun criminal and serious fraud investigations into more than 500 individuals and organisations holding these accounts.

HMRC will be writing to those who have not yet come forward, or are not currently under investigation. They will be offered a window of opportunity to contact HMRC and disclose all their tax liabilities. If they do not come forward, HMRC will begin an investigation into their affairs, which could include a criminal investigation or result in penalties, in certain circumstances, of up to 200%.

The work will be led by HMRC’s new Offshore Co-ordination Unit, which has recently been established and will become fully operational next month.

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, has recently said:

“The Government has shown its commitment to closing the tax gap by making an additional £917million available to HMRC to tackle evasion, avoidance and fraud. This will fund the new Offshore Co-ordination Unit, and its specialist teams, which will drive forward this work.”

HMRC’s Permanent Secretary for Tax, Dave Hartnett, has added that :

“This is not an amnesty. There are no special rates of penalty or interest for those who come forward voluntarily. This is an opportunity for those who have made errors in past returns to correct them. The net is closing on offshore evaders. Don’t wait for HMRC to contact you. Come forward to us and make a full disclosure.”

The announcement follows the signing of the tax cooperation agreement between Switzerland and the UK earlier this month – see our International Tax News item of 13 October 2011.

Given the above, those with under declared assets should review their positions and, depending on circumstances, consider the Liechenstein Disclosure Facility [LDF] which may allow a regularisation of tax matters on more favourable terms with HMRC.  

If you would like more information on the above, including the LDF, please contact Keith Rushen on +44 (0)20 7486 2378.

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