HMRC hopes to make tax evasion a thing of the past

Accountants in London will be interested to learn that the days of salting money away in Swiss banks accounts in order to evade UK tax are well and truly over.

An agreement has been finalised between the UK and Switzerland which could see the Swiss authorities handing over as much as £5 billion every year to HMRC.

Tackling tax evasion is one of the main priorities for HMRC and it has been tireless in its attempts to hunt down people who hide money in bank accounts offshore.

The exchequer secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, said this historic agreement means the government can collect billions of pounds from people who have abused the Swiss banking laws and evaded UK taxation.

For decades, the banking laws in Switzerland have provided complete anonymity for foreigners who operate bank accounts in the country.

As from 2013, UK taxpayers with accounts in Switzerland will have their accounts taxed at a rate between 19% and 34%. The actually amount will depend on the length of time the account has been operational. The Swiss will transfer the tax directly to the UK Treasury, but the identity of the account holder will not be revealed.

Account holders will also be subjected to an annual levy on income arising from their Swiss bank accounts. Furthermore, the UK authorities will be entitled to target up to 500 individuals each year for further investigation.

HMRC began its crackdown on tax evaders in 2007. Two years ago, it signed a deal with Liechtenstein, a notorious tax haven where it is thought up to 5,000 UK citizens may have hidden as much as £3 billion in secret bank accounts.

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