NIFA NEWS

HMRC investigating wealthy taxpayers

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request has found that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is using its ‘offshore, corporate and wealthy unit’ to investigate more than 800 UK taxpayers with assets in offshore tax havens. The taxman’s target is to prosecute 100 wealthy individuals and corporates a year until 2020.

This series of prosecutions stems from 2016’s Panama Papers exposure, which uncovered a web of secret offshore companies that wealthy individuals used to hide wealth and evade taxes.

The investigations are made easier by the vast amounts of data HMRC has at its disposal since it started receiving information on individuals’ bank accounts from offshore havens such as Bermuda, the Channel Islands and the British Virgin Islands. It is also using an elite team of highly experienced forensic accountants.

This is evidently paying dividends, as since 2010, the Revenue has brought in more than £2.8 billion from those, to quote a spokesman from HMRC, who “wrongly think they can hide money offshore.”

Once the new “strict liability offence” legislation comes into effect in October 2018, it will be even easier for HMRC to prosecute taxpayers for offshore tax evasion, as the new rules will make it a criminal offence to fail to declare offshore income of more than £25,000. They also mean that HMRC will not have to prove intent to evade tax.

HMRC will also be investigating individuals after September 2018 using the new Failure to Correct and Requirement to Correct legislation, which punishes those who have not come forward voluntarily to correct their tax position.

With the data at their disposal and forensic accountants on the case, the Revenue is likely to really ramp up their collection of tax. The accountants will drill down into the information that has been gathered and will find the provenance of funds in most bank accounts, so anyone who might think their assets are hidden may need to think again.

Roger Isaacs, Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “Forensic accountants are vital when it comes to asset tracing in cases of fraud and financial crime.

“In cases where funds have been hidden offshore, the source of undisclosed funds can usually and eventually by found once the paper trail has been thoroughly scrutinised.”

For more information about how Milsted Langdon can help, please contact Roger at risaacs@milsted-langdon.co.uk or by calling 0117 945 2500. 

Author: Roger Isaacs 6 August 2018

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