HM Revenue and Customs has launched a fresh crackdown on offshore tax evasion after analysing new data on individuals and companies’ tax arrangements.
Working with the United States and Australian governments, the UK is poring over 400GB of data showing the extensive use of complex offshore structures to conceal assets by wealthy individuals and companies.
HMRC says early analysis shows the use of companies and trusts in a number of territories around the world including Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Cook Islands.
It has identified more than 100 people who benefit from these structures with a number of individuals already identified and under investigation for offshore tax evasion.
It has also identified more than 200 UK accountants, lawyers and other professional advisers who advise on setting up these structures who will also be scrutinised.
HMRC is calling on anyone using offshore structures to seek tax advice or risk facing criminal prosecution, significant fines and being named and shamed by the Government.
Chancellor George Osborne says: “The message is simple: if you evade tax, we are coming after you. The Government has invested hundreds of millions of pounds to fund the fight against tax evasion, both at home and abroad. This data is another weapon in HMRC’s arsenal.
“Ahead of the UK’s presidency of the G8 this year, the prime minister has made it a key priority to drive an international effort to increase transparency and clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion. By working with our international partners in this way, we are again demonstrating our commitment to this work.”
HMRC commissioner and director general for enforcement and compliance Jennie Granger said there is nothing illegal about international tax structures.
But she says: “They may involve tax evasion, avoidance or other serious offences by taxpayers. What has to stop is using offshore structures to illegally hide assets and income.”