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HMRC cracks down on people with HSBC accounts in Switzerland

HMRC cracks down on people with HSBC accounts in Switzerland

Contractor accountants who have been salting away their money in a Swiss HSBC bank account will shortly be receiving a letter from HMRC.

The Revenue is writing to individuals offering them the opportunity to disclose their tax liabilities. Accountants can make use of the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility, but if they choose to ignore HMRC’s correspondence, they could risk further investigation and face penalties of up to 200%. The worst offenders could also be prosecuted.

HMRC received details about the 6,000 accounts from a former HSBC employee. So far investigations have already been launched into more than 500 individuals and businesses holding HSBC bank accounts. After cross referencing with self-assessment tax returns, HMRC identified 6,000 accounts that had not been declared.

Dave Hartnett, the permanent secretary for tax at HMRC, was quick to point out that this was not an amnesty. The Revenue is not offering special penalty rates for people who make a voluntary disclosure, but it is an opportunity for them to correct past mistakes.

Simon Airey, from DLA Piper, feels that HMRC is making an extraordinarily generous offer. The Revenue is under a lot of pressure to collect overdue tax and it does not have the resources to conduct 6,000 complex tax investigations.

McGrigors’ director, Phil Berwick, said this proves that the UK/Swiss deal is one element of HMRC’s bid to put an end to tax evasion. The government is sending out a clear message that the net is closing and HSBC account holders who thought they had a year to sort out their tax affairs may be in for a nasty shock.

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: leaning on Antony Gormley by Photography King

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