Government steps up action on offshore tax evaders

People could face criminal prosecution if they fail to declare and pay offshore tax liabilities.

A new criminal offence of failing to declare taxable offshore income and gains has been set out in an HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) consultation paper published on 19 August. The consultation seeks views on the design of the new offence and on appropriate safeguards.

Most offshore cases will continue to be dealt with through a civil approach and another consultation paper clarifies the government’s plans to introduce tougher civil sanctions for offshore evaders, including those who move their taxable assets between offshore banks in different countries in an attempt to hide their wealth and evade tax.

The consultation examines the situation where an individual moves their assets from one offshore centre which has tightened its tax information-sharing laws to another that has not. The 20-year rule limiting how far back HMRC can look at a taxpayer’s affairs could also be suspended.

David Gauke, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “There is nothing wrong with holding assets offshore but investors must pay the tax they owe here.

“Over 56,000 people have already told HMRC about what they owe offshore and HMRC has offered opportunities to clear things up as quickly and easily as possible. Those that don’t come forward must face tough consequences, including a criminal conviction.”

Link: Tackling offshore tax evasion consultation

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