It would appear that HMRC’s increasingly aggressive stance in relation to the tackling of offshore tax evasion shows no signs of relenting.
As of 31st May 2013, UK residents who currently hold assets in a Swiss bank account and have either not opted out, or not signed up to voluntary disclosure of information with HMRC, will discover that between 21% and 41% of the balance of those funds (held at 31st December 2010) have been withdrawn. There is no indication that a repayment of the withdrawn funds will be available, perhaps even in cases where the account holders have been historically UK tax compliant, but have failed to opt out of the UK/Swiss agreement. With the historic protection of Swiss banking secrecy, and Switzerland being regarded as a “safe” location to move assets offshore, the current situation would have appeared unthinkable to most until recently.
In addition, the Chancellor, George Osborne, recently announced that the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands have all signed up to automatic information exchange agreements with the UK. Whilst formal tax disclosure facilities are yet to be announced in respect of these locations, it appears that such a move by HMRC is likely in the near future.
In terms of current tax disclosure facilities, 2013 has already seen the introduction of three additional facilities for the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey respectively. A key theme that is prevalent in all three facilities, is that the terms for making a disclosure by a taxpayer are less favourable than the terms offered under the well established Lichtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF). Most notably, the guaranteed immunity from prosecution for those making full and complete disclosures under the terms of the LDF, is not available under the terms of the more recent disclosure facilities.
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