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Revenue targets 6,000 HSBC accounts

13 October 2011
Issue: 4326 / Categories: News , HSBC , Switzerland , Admin
Customers in Geneva to be advised to disclose tax liabilities

More than 6,000 UK customers of HSBC in Geneva are set to receive a letter from the taxman, advising them to come forward with details of unpaid taxes or face the consequences

Individuals, companies, trusts and other bodies that hold accounts and investments with the bank group in the Swiss capital will shortly receive a letter from HMRC, offering a window of opportunity to disclose their undeclared tax liabilities.

The department will be acting on information acquired last year, and recipients of the correspondence will be those who have not yet come forward or are not currently under investigation for alleged tax evasion.

The work will be led by the Revenue’s new offshore coordination unit, which will become fully operational next month.

HMRC’s permanent secretary for tax, Dave Hartnett, stressed that the department’s latest step in its efforts to close the tax gap is not an amnesty.

‘There are no special rates of penalty or interest for those who come forward voluntarily,’ he said. ‘This is an opportunity for those who have made errors in past returns to correct them.’

The Revenue has sworn to investigate individuals and organisations that do not fully disclose their liabilities, and to dole out fines of up to 200% and even charges of criminality where necessary.

News of the HSBC letters follows last week’s confirmation of an accord between the UK and Switzerland that will see existing funds held by British taxpayers in Swiss banks being subjected to a one-off deduction of between 19% and 34% to settle past tax liabilities.

The arrangement is expected by the government to raise billions for the public purse from 2013 onwards. Phil Berwick, director of tax investigations at law firm McGrigors, called it ‘a game changer for HMRC in their pursuit of tax evaders’.

He added, ‘In one swoop [the deal] removes the last major centre for tax evasion on mainland Europe.’

Mr Berwick’s sentiment was echoed by the Chartered Institute of Taxation’s Gary Ashford. He applauded ‘a significant agreement which opens a new chapter in tackling international tax evasion. Rightly, the net is tightening on those who think they can keep money in offshore bank accounts out of sight of the taxman.’

Issue: 4326 / Categories: News , HSBC , Switzerland , Admin
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