ACCOUNTANTS are potentially missing opportunities to square their clients' tax affairs with HM Revenue & Customs through beneficial disclosure facilities, top 20 firm Crowe Clark Whitehill has found in its fourth annual survey of general practitioner accountants.
The findings suggest that every accountant has clients who would benefit from making a properly managed disclosure under one of the available HMRC facilities, but a lack of understanding of the facilities means that it is not happening.
Where a facility is used, CCW found the most popular disclosure mechanism was the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF) which is a cost efficient way of resolving tax irregularities with HMRC, not just Liechtenstein or other offshore issues.
The survey suggests it is likely most advisers have at least two clients who have not told them of offshore assets, but a quarter of accountants had not made their clients aware of the LDF and said that nothing would persuade them to change their approach.
"This is worrying in view of the number of people who potentially need to make a disclosure but have not been apprised of the relatively smooth and beneficial option provided by the LDF," CCW said of its findings. "Once the LDF has closed in 2016, it is likely that HMRC will treat those who had an opportunity to come forward and did not, harshly. This could include the possibility of criminal prosecution. Advisers who failed to inform clients of all avenues available to them in these circumstances expose themselves to serious risk."
Alarmingly, a fifth of respondents were not aware of the Isle of Man and Channel Islands Disclosure Facilities and a further 57% claimed to have no detailed knowledge of them. The survey shows that most, if not all, advisers have clients who would benefit from making a disclosure via an HMRC facility.
"As this is the case, advisers have a duty to be armed with as much knowledge on the subject as possible. Many professional publications and several national newspapers have carried regular pieces detailing the facilities launched by HMRC and so information is readily available.
"Advisers who are unable to adequately advise their clients of the best or most beneficial route to take may face professional negligence claims at a later date so either need to acquire the knowledge themselves or refer any affected clients to a specialist," CCW said.
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