Rathbones may sell offshore tax operations

Rathbone Brothers, the 265-year-old private bank is considering the sale of
its offshore tax trusts because of fears the taxman will clamp down on the
businesses in 2009.

Paul Stockton, the bank’s finance director, told Accountancy Age: ‘Do we
expect more focus from HM Revenue and Customs on offshore tax structures? We
felt the answer was “yes”.’

Last year, Rathbones took steps to avoid potential disputes with the taxman
by selling its Jersey offshore trust. It is currently fine-tuning a deal for its
Singapore operation.
Stockton said the company’s Swiss and British Virgin Islands offshore trusts may
also be in the shop window.

‘It’s very much part of our current strategy to review those,’ Stockton said.
‘We’ll likely be looking at options for those businesses on similar lines,’ he

The possible sale comes as HMRC and tax authorities worldwide clamp down on
rich investors who hide money in offshore tax havens to avoid paying tax.

Michael Foot, a former managing director of the Financial Services Authority,
is heading a government-initiated review into the future of offshore tax havens.
Among other issues, it will examine regulation, tax and whether offshore
financial centres are transparent enough.

The sale of the offshore trusts will pose some tricky accounting challenges
for Rathbones, Stockton added. ‘We had a long debate with auditors
PricewaterhouseCoopers about what “available for sale” really meant,’ he said.

‘The Singapore deal was certainly subject to due diligence at half-year. Clearly
from an accounting perspective we have to respect that if a deal goes to a
certain level of commitment, then “available for sale” is the right treatment.’

Further reading:

Paul Stockton, FD of Rathbone Brothers

Related reading