According to Pinsent Masons, HM Revenue & Customs made 72 requests for financial data to significant offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and Jersey in the last year (ending 31 Dec 2012) regarding personal and business taxes – this is up by 26% on the 57 in 2011 and 32 in 2010.
The law firm says the figures show that HMRC is accelerating its assault on people sheltering money unlawfully from HMRC in the UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories
Pinsent Masons director Reg Day, said: “This will send shivers down the spine of those individuals and business with any undisclosed assets in places like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. HMRC is closing the net and will come down heavily on those not paying tax.”
The news comes as HMRC finalises new tax compliance information sharing arrangements with the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.
The new rules will be closely modelled on the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act – US legislation which sets out new reporting requirements for foreign financial institutions with accounts held by US national residents overseas.
In May, all Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories with significant financial centres announced a commitment to tackle tax evasion with the aim of setting a new standard of international tax transparency.
Many offshore tax havens have also agreed to sign up to the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters – a data sharing initiative led by the OECD.
“Better co-ordination between HMRC and the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories will provide HMRC with much more of the information it needs to start enforcement action against individuals and businesses it suspects of tax evasion,” said Day.
Day pointed out that taxpayers can declare any offshore assets to HMRC via the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility, a tax amnesty limiting the risk of criminal prosecution.