Tailby sets his sights on renegade tax boutiques

The director of the anti-avoidance group at
HM Revenue & Customs has hit out at
aggressive tax avoidance advisers who have told tax inspectors asking for
information under the disclosure regime to ‘go away’.

Writing for Accountancy Age this week, Chris Tailby said there was a
small band of renegade tax boutiques peddling aggressive tax avoidance schemes
and refusing to cooperate with the disclosure regime, which require advisers to
disclose new avoidance products to

Tailby voiced HMRC’s intense irritation with such firms and its determination
to force rebel advisers to adhere to the disclosure rules.

‘Powers are needed to deal with a minority of promoters who apply avoidance
techniques to the regime itself. Not surprisingly, the minority comes largely
from those promoters who specialise in aggressive schemes.

‘Some promoters have effectively told us to “go away”. Others have offered
reasons as to why they think the scheme is not notifiable. The net result is
that a promoter who chooses to “play the system” can delay HMRC discovering
details of the scheme for many months,’ Tailby said.

HMRC first announced plans to strengthen the disclosure regime in the 2006
pre-Budget report and is currently consulting on the changes that will allow tax
inspectors to access corporate information, via the special commissioners, when
flaunting of the disclosure regime is suspected.It is not only HMRC that has
grown frustrated with the blatant non-compliance by, what official estimates
reckon, are around 100 advisers. Tailby claims mainstream tax practices have
also been angered by rivals who refuse to comply.

‘Mainstream promoters frequently ask us when we “are going to do something”
to ensure a level playing field,’ Tailby said.

But experts have voiced concerns about the new rules. ‘This is a classic
chicken and egg situation. HMRC wants to find out if you should be disclosing a
scheme, but the only way to do that is to force you to disclose,’ said
PricewaterhouseCoopers tax partner John Whiting. But he was supportive of
attempts to ensure compliance across the board.

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