Institutes criticise lack of publicity for amnesty

The institutes have publicly challenged the government’s lack of publicity
for the offshore tax amnesty, the bodies said today.

to members on how they should handle clients’ affairs in relation to the moves,
announced this week, the bodies said they had questioned HM Revenue &
Customs on the matter.

‘HMRC have decided not to mount any sort of paid for publicity campaign for
this facility. A press release announcing the launch of facility has been
issued, and HMRC will doubtless brief the press and respond to questions, but
there will be no advertising campaign. HMRC have set up a dedicated website and
telephone helpline, and have produced detailed guidance and forms. The
professional bodies have challenged HMRC over this approach, but the decision
not to launch a publicity campaign has been made,’ the guidance says.

The decision leaves advisers in a tricky situation.

The institutes, including the CIoT, ICAEW, ACCA, AAT and ATT, warned advisers
to make sure they notify clients that the offshore disclosure facility has been
launched, commenting that HMRC had launched the initiative with ‘minimal
publicity’. It is unclear whether a failure to notify a client could lead to a
negligence claim.

However, asking clients if they have broken the law could be a highly
sensitive endeavour, and the bodies set out a form of words for advisers to
avoid offending taxpayers.

The bodies also said that getting information from banks will prove to be one
of the major hurdles, but as long as all reasonable attempts to gain information
and make sensible estimates on clients’ tax liabilities, HMRC should accept the
disclosures, the document adds.

HMRC has stated that for trivial amounts beyond six years of tax liabilities,
these amounts do not need to be included in a tax payment. But the guidance
notes that HMRC has not given a figure for ‘trivial’.

‘It is understood that HMRC intend that only very small amounts of income

should be regarded as trivial, and that the word is used in an absolute
rather than a relative sense,’ according to the guidance. ‘So a taxpayer who

has had an offshore account for years with a relatively small amount of
money in it earning interest of less than, say, £100 per year could
reasonably regard that amount as trivial, and therefore not need to disclose

back for more than six years.’

Grant Thornton UK head of tax Francesca Lagerberg said HMRC was very keen for

the system to be used, but did not want ‘back of the envelope’ calculations

used to gauge payments.

She also called on HMRC to provide more guidance on how advisers should

treat disclosures in terms of money laundering regulations. She expected
that SOCA would not want to be inundated with money laundering returns for

every tax disclosure.

She suggested advisers should use normal judgement to decide whether a
disclosure triggers a report to SOCA.

the guidance

Related reading