HMRC has recently announced a task-force targeting “hidden wealth” in London and East Anglia. HMRC has been making increased use of task-forces and in HMRC’s own words they “bring together various HMRC compliance and enforcement teams for intensive bursts of activity targeted at specific sectors and locations where there is evidence of high risk of tax evasion and fraud”.
This task-force is one of many and so should not be viewed with undue alarm but it is an indication that HMRC is concentrating its efforts on wealthy individuals who are seeking to keep their wealth outside of the UK tax net. Other recent efforts include:
- the introduction of the annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) from the start of the current tax year
- the UK Swiss Tax Disclosure Agreement which came into force on 1 January 2013
- the Intergovernmental Agreements to Improve Tax Compliance which have been signed between the UK and the Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories and which will result in far more information being disclosed to HMRC from these countries.
Earlier this month we published an article setting out how to respond to correspondence from HMRC in relation to the Swiss Tax Agreement and our advice to anyone who receives an HMRC enquiry into their offshore accounts is to seek legal advice before responding. There are many legitimate financial planning reasons for having offshore accounts and offshore vehicles and care should be taken in correspondence to HMRC to set out the facts in a way which does not prejudice your position going forwards.
Burges Salmon has substantial experience of acting for clients in correspondence with HMRC and, if necessary, liaising with HMRC to regularise our clients’ tax affairs. If you or your clients are contacted by the HMRC task-force then it is important to keep calm and take legal advice.