The letters have been issued by HMRC’s newly established Offshore Co-ordination Unit and will ask the recipients to provide HMRC with written confirmation either that they have no tax irregularities, will be making a disclosure under the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility or will be making a disclosure but not under the LDF.
Information on the 6,000 individuals, companies, trusts and other bodies which hold or held accounts with HSBC Geneva, was given to HMRC by France under a tax treaty last year. The data was originally part of around 24,000 account details stolen by a disgruntled former HSBC employee, Hervé Falciani, and handed to the French authorities. The French tax authorities subsequently sifted through the details, identifying around 8,000 French residents with accounts at the Swiss bank.
HMRC warned last month that the process of contacting account holders was about to begin and added that it has also already begun criminal and serious fraud investigations into more than 500 individuals and companies holding these accounts.
At the time, HMRC’s permanent secretary for tax, Dave Hartnett, said: “This is not an amnesty. There are no special rates of penalty or interest for those who come forward voluntarily. This is an opportunity for those who have made errors in past returns to correct them.
“The net is closing on offshore evaders. Don’t wait for HMRC to contact you. Come forward to us and make a full disclosure.”
Frank Strachan, head of tax at LSG Solicitors, said HRMC has sent the “clearest message possible” to HSBC Geneva customers.
“HMRC has outlined in broad terms what it knows and made clear the options available to the customers of HSBC. These letters need to be actioned and cannot be ignored.”
This sentiment was echoed by George Bull, senior tax partner at Baker Tilly, who said those receiving the OCU letters need to consider them seriously.