Do Buckley from AegisTax has spoken to ContractorUK about the recent press interest and exposes surrounding government interest in offshore accounts. Reports have suggested that the government are making every effort to track down accounts which they believe amount to billions in unpaid taxes.
Her colleague Bob Evans stated at a recent conference: “The bottom line is that if you have an offshore account (and almost any account outside your country of residence or nationality could be considered ‘offshore’) you would be well-advised to ensure you understand the relevant laws and directives of the country or countries where you are taxable. If you are complying with all the relevant legislation you need do nothing more. If not, you run the risk of receiving an assessment for unpaid tax plus interest and penalties; you may also face the possibility of criminal prosecution and imprisonment for tax evasion.”
Buckley strives to explain that holding an offshore account is not a criminal activity. However, there are relevant laws pertaining to such accounts and, people have a responsibility to abide by them. Those who don’t, whether on purpose or through being unawares, are set to find themselves under scrutiny.
Evans continued: “Some people will stick their heads in the sand and some will slip the net – for the time being. But the reality is that orders forcing banks to provide information, international cooperation and the increasing ease with which tax authorities can search and compare data will make it more and more difficult to hide undeclared assets.”
The authorities who are now making enquiries, including information sharing between governments and other countries, have the power to make these retrospective enquiries. Many countries have, in the past, been seen as tax havens but this is unlikely to last for much longer.
HMRC have introduced the New Disclosure Opportunity as a partial tax amnesty regarding offshore accounts and related unpaid taxes between September 2009 and March 12th 2010.