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Govt to toughen up on offshore tax evasion

The Government has set out plans to make failure to declare offshore tax arrangements a criminal offence.

In a consultation, published today, the Government proposes to make it a “strict liability offence” to conceal funds offshore for illegitimate tax purposes.

Under the proposals, a strict liability offence is a criminal offence where it is not necessary for the court to establish the state of mind of the defendant before convicting.

The Government is also planning to toughen the existing civil penalties for tax evasion.

The UK has agreements in place with the Isle of Man and other UK oversees territories which means offshore accounts information is shared with HM Revenue & Customs.

It has information sharing deals which mean 33 different jurisdictions share data in a “common reporting standard”.

HMRC will “prioritise for criminal investigation” anyone that moves money to a jurisdiction that is not part of the common reporting standard project.

In some jurisdictions, HMRC has invited those with offshore assets to voluntarily declare their arrangements of in a certain period of time.

The Isle of Man disclosure facility is open from 6 April 2013 until 30 September 2016.

Treasury financial secretary David Gauke says: “Over 56,000 people have already told HMRC about what they owe offshore and HMRC has offered opportunities to clear things up as quickly and easily as possible. Those that don’t come forward must face tough consequences, including a criminal conviction.”

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