Belgium lifts lid on 15,000 UK account holders

BELGIAN TAX AUTHORITIES have said they will remove the secrecy on 250,000 foreign bank accounts, including 15,000 Britons.

“The plan is to transmit this banking information between now and July 1 to fiscal authorities in the countries of origin,” a Belgian finance ministry official said. The largest proportion of foreign account holders – 100,000 – come from France, where taxation is generally higher, and unlike Belgium includes a wealth tax and a tax on stocks held by private shareholders.
This will affect British account holders, tax investigation professionals have said.

Frank Strachan, head of tax at Lass Salt Garvin, said: “Clients are becoming more concerned about how fiscal authorities are changing their views on historic accounts and how willing they seem to provide information between themselves.”

Although Belgian taxes are not particularly low compared with the UK, it will affect people who have business interests there. “There could be a lot of awkward questions put to the account holders,” he said. “They might have perfectly acceptable explanations, but that still incurs time and expense to deal with.

“More and more jurisdictions are opening up their historic banking relationships and another domino falls,” he added.

Matt Coward, partner at Price Bailey, said: “This – along with other recent developments – means that increasingly the game is up for those seeking to hide income and gains within European financial institutions.

“Those who have done so and have a tax liability should come forward at the earliest opportunity and consider whether they’d be better off professionally represented.HMRC’s increased focus on offshore evasion means that such representation is almost invariably beneficial.”

Other groups of foreign nationals holding accounts in Belgium include 50,000 Dutch, 22,500 Germans and 15,000 Spaniards.

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