Treasury help line delayed

In his budget speech, Gordon Brown hinted at a ‘period of grace’ until January 2001 whereby individuals and companies owing back taxes could speak anonimously with tax authorities.

David Cunliffe, director of tax investigations support at Lathams chartered accountants, said: ‘I am surprised the Treasury has not met its deadline as stated in Brown’s budget speech. How much longer will it be before the line is set up given the period of grace will end in 6 months?’

But, the chancellor’s concession was swiftly followed by a pledge to impose tougher rules and penalities on anyone owing back dated taxes from January 2001. The Treasury’s tough stance on tax dodgers follows a report on the hidden economy which rules out a general amnesty for tax dodgers and gives tax inspectors much greater powers.

Brown said he would adopt all of the report’s recommendations outlined on how to combat tax evasion. The Grabiner report has been heavily criticised by the English ICA’s Tax faculty as ‘shoddy and lacking in credibility’.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury said the phone line had not been delayed and would be functional shortly. ‘The new rules and penalities are expected to be announced at the end of the year,’ she said.

In light of the so-called ‘period of grace’, Lathams’ Cunliffe has urged clients who owe UK back taxes to pay before January 2001 if they want to avoid the planned stiffer penalties.

Cunliffe said: ‘Our advice to clients is that anyone who owes UK back taxes might find it advantageous to clear things up over the next few months, rather than hope that this will all go away.’

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