Offshore probe will not break bank confidentiality

The taxman has promised that banks will not have to break secrecy laws when
disclosing the details of offshore bank account holders.

At a meeting held yesterday HM Revenue & Customs told a group of banks
that it intends to widen its search for offshore accounts beyond the giant
banks Barclays, HSBC, HBOS, RBS and Lloyds TSB, but that the search would not
require banks to breach secrecy rules.

HMRC is eager to avoid a confrontation with banks, and will be sending a
questionnaire to senior bank officials asking them about the likelihood of
having customers with undisclosed offshore accounts, and what their views are on
how investigations should be conducted.

HMRC has acknowledged, however, that it may require further legal rulings if
it is to obtain more customer details from banks, the FT reports.

Secrecy rules in places such as Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Isle
of Man mean that HMRC could struggle to obtain details of accounts held in these

The first wave of the disclosure facility saw HMRC go to the special
commissioners to obtain the details of 400,000 customers. Under the facility,
which capped penalties at 10% for those who came forward, 62,000 account holders
came forward.

About 15,000 account holders have already paid outstanding tax, netting
£100m for HMRC.

Further reading:

HMRC prepares for more raids on offshore

Offshore account tax disclosures reach

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