Worldwide Disclosure Facility for offshore tax evasion launched

A NEW online disclosure facility has launched today giving offshore evaders a last chance to settle tax on their wealth hidden offshore ahead of new data sharing arrangements and tougher penalties being introduced.

The Worldwide Disclosure Facility (WDF) is the final chance for those few still dragging their feet to put things right with any outstanding tax on undeclared offshore money or assets.

The WDF offers no special terms: those who come forward will pay the tax in full, with interest on top, with a minimum penalty of 30% of the tax due for evaders, and they could still face criminal prosecution. The quality of the information disclosed will be taken into consideration and it is always advisable to come forward and ensure any outstanding tax liabilities are in order as soon as possible.

The government has made clear it is committed to getting tougher on tackling all forms of tax evasion. The changes outlined here and the principles behind them apply to both onshore and offshore issues ensuring a strengthening of our penalties for all tax evasion.

From today HMRC will also consider how long it has taken for someone to put their tax affairs in order when calculating penalties. This means that those who have delayed disclosing or ignored past opportunities will no longer get a reduction for disclosure.

This last chance comes before HMRC starts to receive an unprecedented amount of data on offshore accounts closing the net further on tax evaders, who are to be hit by tougher sanctions. This will be added to the offshore data HMRC receives year-on-year that is used to help settle hundreds of criminal investigations.

Jennie Granger, HMRC, director general of enforcement and compliance, said: “HMRC is getting even tougher on tax evasion. We relentlessly pursue tax evaders to ensure they pay every penny of the taxes and fines they owe, pushing for the toughest possible sanctions where appropriate.

“We’ve closed old disclosure facilities, increased penalties, and ramped-up our powers to tackle evaders and those that help others evade. Alongside this, international cooperation through global tax transparency is making it easier for us to catch evaders, as we increasingly receive more information about financial assets which people had hoped would remain hidden. Our message couldn’t be clearer: there are no safe havens left for tax evaders and no-one should be in any doubt that the days of hiding money offshore with impunity are gone.”

Further guidance and detail on the changes to disclosure and the WDF have been published today. Those who do not come forward will face the new Requirement To Correct (RTC) penalties being consulted on; one option being considered is a minimum 100% penalty – significantly higher than the current minimums.

These latest actions build on the wide range of measures introduced by the Government to toughen sanctions for all those involved in offshore tax evasion. This includes a new criminal offence for tax evasion, increased civil sanctions for offshore tax evaders, and civil sanctions for those who enable offshore evasion.

In 2014-2015 HMRC brought in £26.6bn from tackling tax evasion and avoidance, and since 2010, has raised over £2.4bn from offshore evasion initiatives, including more than 10,000 disclosures.


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