BusinessCompany NewsOffshore trawl is a fishy business

Offshore trawl is a fishy business

HMRC’s recent success in winning a disclosure order forcing Barclays bank to hand over the details for hundreds of thousands of offshore accounts bears all the signs of a landmark decision

But, here are some questions that bear asking.

For one thing, the sheer number of accounts involved means that this looks
like one of the biggest fishing expeditions in the history of UK tax, a trawl so
large some will say it beggars belief.

If you take into account that the rest of the high street banks could end up
subject to the same action, then the number of accounts under the microscope
becomes unfathomable. But, should the taxman be allowed to trawl in this
fashion?

Next to consider is the means by which the taxman developed its suspicion of
offshore accounts – by looking at information gained from debit cards and
through tax credits paid to offshore accounts. Should the taxman be permitted to
use information in this way?

Lastly, are the special commissioners really the right people to have the
authority to permit this? Surely the issue is so significant it deserves a
hearing in the High Court?

Try as I might to see this move as a way of recovering tax, I also can’t help
thinking there are also some very big principles at stake.

Gavin Hinks is editor of Accountancy Age

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