News story

HMRC campaign targets offshore account holders in fresh clamp-down on tax evasion

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Chancellor George Osborne launches the campaign as G20 ministers agree next steps in global fight against tax avoidance and evasion.

As G20 ministers welcome a new global standard to automatic tax information exchange and call on the governments of financial centres to sign up to new international tax information sharing agreements, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has launched a new campaign targeting taxpayers with money hidden in offshore accounts.

The UK has already entered into new information-sharing agreements with the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories which will provide HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) with access to more data than ever before on offshore accounts held by UK taxpayers.

The UK, following an agreement reached last year with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, will also move quickly to implement the new global standard on a multilateral basis. So far 42 countries and jurisdictions have joined this initiative which will lead to the rapid embedding of the new global standard and the removal of hiding places for tax evaders as HMRC uses new information to clamp down on tax evasion.

Any taxpayer who has declared all of their income has nothing to fear, but anyone who fails to do so will have to pay the tax itself as well as penalties of up to twice that sum, and could face imprisonment. The new HMRC campaign will run in national newspapers and weekly magazines from Monday 24 February 2014.

The launch of the campaign follows the G20 group of finance ministers’ further demonstration of its shared commitment to tackling global tax avoidance and evasion through agreements made at the G20 meeting in Australia over the weekend.

Endorsing the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) new global standard for automatic exchange of tax information, unveiled at this weekend’s meeting, the group called on all financial centres to match the G20’s commitment to tackling tax evasion.

The G20 said that it will continue to focus on ensuring that developing countries benefit from automatic information sharing alongside developed economies.

The G20 finance ministers also restated their commitment to fighting profit shifting by multinational corporations to avoid paying tax. They said they look forward to progress in the OECD’s base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project to reform the global tax rules and tackle profit-shifting by multinational companies as set out in the agreed timetable.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne said:

Last year the Prime Minister put tax at the heart of the UK’s G8 agenda, leading to groundbreaking consensus on the action needed to bring greater transparency and fairness to the global tax system. The G20 took up the baton and at this meeting we agreed the next steps in the international fight against tax avoidance and evasion.

The UK government is on the side of the hardworking majority of people and companies who pay the tax they owe. By taking global action to reform the system alongside a tough approach to enforcing the law at home, we will close the net on those who think they do not have to play by the rules. This is a victory for Britain’s international agenda and the fight against wrong doing.

Jennie Granger, HMRC’s Director General for Enforcement and Compliance, said:

Most people with offshore assets do the right thing and tell us about them, and therefore have nothing to worry about. But for the minority who don’t, the net is closing around them.

We are getting more and more information that helps us to target offshore tax cheats more effectively than ever before. If you have assets offshore you need to get in touch with us urgently, because we will catch up with you. That can mean a fine of 200 per cent of the tax that you owe, and the possibility of criminal prosecution and a prison sentence.

The days of hiding money in another country to cheat the UK are coming to an end.