Banks look to fend off HMRC’s offensive on overseas accounts

Advisers are working feverishly to help banks’ clients who are considering
appealing against the taxman’s foray into their accounts.

The workload for tax experts has picked up dramatically as 308 banks
frantically assess their options on HM Revenue & Customs’ notice against
them to provide details of their customers’ overseas accounts.

The flurry of activity came before the deadline to lodge an appeal against
the notices passed on 21 September.

Stephen Camm, lead partner in tax investigations at PricewaterhouseCoopers
said: “We’ve had quite a few banking clients talking to us about [the notices].
They’re looking to see how we can help them get the balance right between
maintaining customer confidentiality and co-operating with the Revenue.
Inevitably some will appeal the notices.”

One leading tax lawyer said 95% of his clients had been looking at issuing
protective appeals to keep HMRC at bay.

However the only legitimate ground of appeal is that it would be “unduly
onerous” for the bank in terms of collating the information to comply with the

As part of the offensive, HMRC is also targeting institutions that have
processed payments and transfers on behalf of their clients to overseas bank
accounts, including accounts held with other organisations. The notices have
been issued in generic form.

With the added burden of the “one size fits all approach”, compliance would
be a “complete nightmare” for some banks, the legal expert said.

The banks could quite rightly feel hard done by, he added. They were not
given any advance notice of HMRC’s plans to proceed against them, and they also
had no opportunity to approach the tax tribunal before the application was made
by the taxman.

HMRC said it was giving companies every chance to comply by rolling out
guidance. A spokesman said: “Although the notices were granted on 308 banks this
time, the legislation we used is the same as that used for previous successful

“HMRC is providing all recipients of the notices with material to explain
this and to help them to understand what they need to do. The first part of that
material has already been sent out.”


HMRC is rightly going after UK citizens hiding undeclared income in cushy
overseas jurisdictions, but the amount of information it will have to wade
through may become a millstone round its neck.

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