Do we need an HMRC amnesty amnesty?

As an example of how an amnesty for taxpayers might work in future there
should be plenty to learn from the current New Disclosure Opportunity (NDO) for
offshore account holders.

The deadline to register for the amnesty came on 4 January and registrants
will have until 12 March to make their actual tax disclosure, submit their
unpaid tax and pay the reduced penalty. The problem, as Accountancy Age reveals
this week, is that more than half the 300 banks subject to the NDO have so far
failed to tell their clients about the amnesty. This is a problem because the
banks have just been compelled by HM Revenue & Customs to reveal the details
of clients with accounts offshore.

If account holders were reliant on the banks to tell them about the amnesty,
they have been ill-served. Granted, the banks find themselves in a bit of a
bind. Many are still to put the data together on their clients and are not
entirely sure what information they have to submit. Many feel they are not
obliged under law to inform account holders, some wish to avoid sowing panic
among clients if, in the end, they will not have to pay tax. They are also
battling against a time frame for submissions that hasn’t really helped them
communicate clearly with the clients.

The fact remains, however, that if an organisation hands over information
about your personal finances to a regulatory authority, especially a tax
collector, there can be no doubt that they have a moral obligation to tell
clients what they’ve done, regardless of the legalities.

The administration of the NDO clearly hasn’t helped.

The deadline for registrants has passed and yet many banks have still to
submit information. The procedural aspects of the amnesty are clearly out of
whack. If HMRC is to use the amnesty more often in the future (this week it
offered terms to doctors for their tax affairs) it has to resolve this.

More importantly, banks should be very clear about what their obligations
should be. They cannot expect to profit from their clients and not offer clear
communications in return.

Fall from grace is lesson for profession

The unsavoury circumstances surrounding the former ACCA president Dennis
Yeates is a salutary lesson in how otherwise successful individuals can be
brought low. How a man who once held such a respected office should end up
pleading guilty to theft in a court is anybody’s guess, but it should serve as a
reminder that accountants are held in high esteem and must do all they can to
justify their place in society.

Further reading:

investigates former president

Related reading

tax dictionary