Could HMRC become a massive money laundering operation?

An interesting item in the Daily Telegraph last week suggested that tax amnesties risk turning HMRC into a massive money-laundering operation.

Accountants may have read the blog post where it was suggested that rather than solving the tax evasion problem, amnesties such as the recent Anglo-Swiss agreement are helping criminals gain respectability.

At the 29th International Symposium on Economic Crime last week, Jonathan Fisher QC, said the government must step in to stop organised crime misusing tax amnesties.

Speaking at Jesus College, Cambridge, he explained that HMRC has been offering disclosure opportunities to UK taxpayers since 2007 in the hope that the promise of beneficial tax treatment will encourage them to declare assets hidden abroad. These voluntary disclosure opportunities have given money launderers the ideal opportunity to legitimise their illegal activities.

Mr Fisher went on to say that the agreement between Switzerland and the UK was a “grubby little deal” and money launderers will have further opportunities to legitimise their crime proceeds next year when additional amnesties are announced.

An HMRC spokesman countered his claim saying there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that this has happened and the Revenue has strict controls in place to prevent abuse of the tax system.

HMRC says that tax amnesties are a pragmatic way of dealing with a substantial problem but as Mr Fisher points out; an unintended consequence could be to boost organised crime.

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