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ODF registrants sought for interviews

11 August 2010
Categories: News , ODF , offshore disclosure facility , Scott Gilbert , tax amnesty , Admin
HMRC letter seeks better understanding of offshore account holders

HMRC are hoping to form a greater understanding of the relationship between tax and bank accounts held outside the UK by recruiting the help of individuals who registered with the department’s 2007’s ‘amnesty’.

The Revenue has written to around 600 taxpayers who came forward during the offshore disclosure facility (ODF), to ask if they would be willing to answer ‘a few short questions about how you opened, operated and maintained your accounts’. No details are given about the possible line of questioning.

The letter – from offshore campaign manager Marian Wilson – emphasises that there is no obligation to speak to the taxman, and no financial information will be discussed during the interview, which would be held over the phone.

‘This is not an enquiry into your tax affairs,’ states the correspondence, to which recipients are asked to respond no later than the 28th of this month.

‘We want to understand how customers [sic] run their offshore accounts and why them set them up, to build our understanding of why people open offshore accounts and how they see their tax responsibilities,’ said an HMRC spokesperson.

Tax investigations specialist Scott Gilbert cast doubt on the Revenue’s latest ambition. He said: ‘If one of my clients received the letter, my advice would be not to respond. Why should they? HMRC have had the chance to look into information they collected during the ODF.

‘The question is, what does the Revenue have to gain from this, and what’s in it for the people who respond to the letter? This could frighten some people,’ added Mr Gilbert, who runs the award-winning Gilbert Tax in North Yorkshire.

‘It would be nice if HMRC would concentrate on the data they’ve already got, rather than asking for more.’

Phil Berwick, director of tax investigations at McGrigors law firm, warned that ODF registrants should extremely careful when engaging in informal conversations with the Revenue.

‘It will be quite easy for taxpayers to slip up and incriminate themselves... If individuals want to co-operate with the department on this initiative they should do so via their advisers,’ he said.

‘The concern is that these phone calls will turn into fishing trips to quiz high net-worth taxpayers about their financial affairs… I suspect the Revenue may use its information powers against banks and advisers based on the information it gathers from this exercise.’

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