HMRC sets up new unit to tackle tax evasion

Accountants may start to get enquiries from people holding HSBC Swiss banks accounts after HMRC announced that it is giving them the opportunity to disclose any previously unpaid taxes.

Last week, the Revenue confirmed that as many as 6,000 account holders will receive a letter inviting them to come forward within 30 days. Recipients will be offered the chance to make a disclosure, maybe under the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility, but individuals who do not come forward within the time limit will find themselves under investigation.

HMRC has set up a special unit in Birmingham to deal with HSBC account holders. 25 people will staff the Offshore Co-ordination Unit; 12 of them will be inspectors and the remainder technical and support staff.

However, Guy Smith from Abbey Tax Protection said even if the 12 inspectors take on 30 investigative cases each that only amounts to 360 cases. It could take several years to investigate all the people who choose not to make a voluntary disclosure. In all likelihood, the Unit will select the highest risk cases first and farm the others out to local tax offices.

It’s interesting that HMRC has chosen to take this action so soon after the Anglo-Swiss agreement was signed. It suggests that the Revenue is stepping up its campaign to investigate people suspected of tax evasion prior to the new deal being implemented in 2013.

The Revenue is confident that the HSBC initiative will be successful. It believes that UK tax worth as much as £1 billion pounds could be sitting in HSBC accounts in Switzerland.

Gary Ashford from RSM Tenon has also been quick to point out that HMRC now possesses high class IT and will use the data it holds on other banks in the coming year.

The net would seem to be well and truly closing in on tax evaders.

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