Offshore trust clampdown may net £500m

Offshore trust clampdown may net £500m

Advisers suggest that the Budget figure represents a huge underestimate of the avoidance going on through the schemes

The chancellor could raise almost £500m a year by closing a key offshore
property tax loophole -­ ten times as much as Budget figures suggest.

The abolition of ‘seeding relief’, which allowed property companies and
individuals to put properties into offshore unit trusts as a way of avoiding
stamp duty of up to 4%, is predicted to generate £50m a year for the government,
according to figures released with the Budget statement.

But advisers have suggested that the figure represents a huge underestimate
of the avoidance going on through the schemes.

Jeff Webber, associate director at Chiltern, said the number of properties
being sold on free of stamp duty was so large that as much as ten times that sum
was being avoided.

Property industry insiders suggested that law firms had been lining up
clients to exploit the rules.

Webber said that one Jersey firm had employed 50 new people to process
transactions.

A spokesman for the British Property Federation described the clampdown as
closing of the stable door after the horse had bolted.

The closing of the loophole was part of a surprisingly muted set of
announcements on tax avoidance, predicted by many to be a key theme of the
Budget.

The government did use retrospective powers announced in the 2004 pre-Budget
report to rule out some abuses through employment products, raising £70m in the
first year.

Bill Dodwell, tax partner at Deloitte, said the move probably did not reflect
city bonus planning, which had been effectively targeted, but wealthy
individuals trying to take money out of their companies.

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