Everyone has to pay their way

That’s not a good sign. The rules have been in place since 2004 and received
huge press coverage. No one should be in any doubt about their obligations under
the law to report tax schemes to HMRC.

The news comes when there is a renewed focus on paying the right amount in
tax. The G20 meeting in London focused on combating tax havens. Indeed, many tax
havens have been moved to forge agreements on information sharing to avoid being
blacklisted. Could this happen if accountancy firms fail to satisfy their
obligations on reporting tax schemes?

At the moment, the taxman has deliberately remained quiet claiming
confidentiality. But, given the number of organisations under investigation,
it’s anybody’s guess when the name of a firm will appear in the press. But we
should not jump to conclusions that all the firms being examined have sought to
avoid making their due declarations. There may be confusion over exactly what
needs to be disclosed. At times, the experts say, it is not clear what
constitutes avoidance. Artificiality is the test, but the arguments can
sometimes be difficult and complex. Likewise, there are aggressive schemes out
there which leave most tax advisers opened mouthed with shock that they were
ever tried at all. Opinions can vary however.

The point is this. If people are continuing to stretch what passes for
acceptable they are not in touch. The world has changed. There is now zero
tolerance for anything that smacks of cheating the taxman. Best practice and
sheer professional values should dictate that tax advisers abide by the spirit
and letter of the law. If not, they only risk bringing down rules and
regulations on everyone else.

Related reading