Penalty for second tax amnesty expected to treble

The second tax amnesty for holders of offshore accounts will impose penalties
significantly higher than the first scheme, Accountancy Age has
learned, with experts expecting HM Revenue and Customs to treble the charge to
30% of the outstanding tax.

A source close to the planning of the amnesty said that it is ‘highly
unlikely’ the same 10% penalty will apply to the second round of disclosures.

‘It’s virtually inconceivable that it’ll be as generous as the first one,’
the source said.

Under the terms of the first amnesty conducted in 2007, the penalty applied
was capped at 10% of the outstanding tax owed plus interest.

The first amnesty, or offshore disclosure facility, was launched in 2007 and
raised £400m after HMRC targeted 100,000 people with overseas accounts in five
major retail banks.

The prospect of a 30% penalty has divided advisers. Bill Dodwell, tax partner
at Deloitte, said 30% did not offer an incentive for taxpayers to come forward.
‘They need a carrot on the stick. If you’re going to encourage people then you
need to offer something that looks a reasonable deal,’ he said.

John Cassidy, tax investigations partner at PKF, said 30% is too high to ‘set
as a carrot’ in
taxpayers coming forward.

According to George Bull, national head of tax at Baker Tilly, while HMRC
needs to encourage people to voluntarily disclose, the penalty needs to be
higher than the first amnesty.

‘It’s striking a balance between getting the taxpayer to come forward but
can’t be the same as the people who complied first time around will be out of
sorts,’ he said.

Observers have also speculated that the taxman would tie the penalty to the
amount of undisclosed funds held offshore. Bull said it was a possibility.

‘It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a tiered structure based on the powers and
penalties regime was used ­ that would make perfect sense,’ he said.

‘A 30% penalty would recognise the seriousness of a taxpayer not having
previously disclosed the information, but it needs to be pitched as tougher than
the first.

‘Ignorance of the law in the UK is no excuse for taxpayers not to comply ­
people who have deliberately kept money offshore knowing they’re not paying UK
tax won’t get any sympathy offshore,’ Bull said.

A spokesman for HMRC said a final decision on the penalty applied to the
second amnesty was yet to be made.


Predicted penalty to be charged on outstanding tax

The amount raised by HMRC from the first amnesty

Related reading