The taxman has apologised for sending out a blanket letter to the wrong
people, as the deadline looms for the government’s latest tax amnesty.
The apology comes as advisers spoke out about the confusion and bewilderment
of some of their clients, who had received an HM Revenue & Customs letter
urging them to disclose funds held in their offshore accounts under the New
Disclosure Opportunity (NDO), despite the NDO rules not applying to them – an
approach that one adviser said “smacks of laziness”.
In some cases, advisers claimed that several “perplexed” clients had come
forward with the same letter from HMRC, when a simple check of their tax affairs
could have revealed that NDO was not applicable to these individuals – for
example because their client was domiciled elsewhere.
“If HMRC had checked the files for these individuals, they would have known
this was an inappropriate letter to send to them,” said Mike Warburton, private
client director at Grant Thornton.
“They should have looked these up. Writing to all holders of offshore bank
accounts, whether it’s relevant or not… shows a lack of sensitivity.”
A spokesman for HMRC confirmed that a generic letter was sent out and that
“anyone with an offshore bank account was targeted”.
He added that around 30,000 letters went out to holders of accounts obtained
from HMRC’s notices to 300 banks. “We apologise if the letter has reached people
it doesn’t apply to,” the spokesman said.
“Some checks had been done before they were sent out, but because we had
such a huge number to send in such a short timescale, it was more important to
get the message out, so obviously some would slip through the net.”
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