Secretive offshore investors now facing ‘real pain’

Investors who fail to reveal all about their offshore dealings are set for a big shock, tax expert Ann Bibby, a partner in the Birmingham office of international accountancy firm Mazars has warned.

For HM Revenue & Customs is threatening higher penalty charges in income tax and capital gains tax cases.

Ms Bibby said: “If, after all that has taken place in recent years, with offshore investors pursued around the world for failure to pay their full tax obligations, they still haven’t got the message then now the real pain starts.

“HMRC has announced it may charge a penalty of more than 100 per cent for an inaccuracy in a return or document, a failure to notify or the deliberate withholding of information for more than a year.

“And in territories which do not share information with HMRC, deliberate or concealed gains will mean a maximum 200 per cent hit.”

The changes apply to tax year 2011 onwards.

Ms Bibby said: “HMRC has been gradually turning the screw following every success with once-secretive countries who connived with UK taxpayers to enable them to avoid their responsibilities.

“With the help of whistleblowers the number of tax havens still operating has shrunk dramatically.

“In the process, many taxpayers have been found out – to their considerable cost.

“Now the stakes have been ratcheted even higher. It is getting harder and harder to hide money abroad. The tax authorities are tracking more and more miscreants down.

“I would strongly advise anyone with hidden assets to think long and hard, take advice and be prepared to make a clean breast of matters. Because the chances are that HMRC will eventually knock on your door and potentially throw the book at you. It really isn’t worth taking that chance.”