25 APR 2016

Tax Avoidance and Tax Havens

HMRC is carrying out an intensive investigation of offshore companies, including in Panama, and has asked the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to share the leaked data. A new taskforce will be established to deal with the Panama Papers and will provide resources to make sure that the files are fully investigated. The Government has said that it is working with other major countries to speed up the progress on sharing beneficial ownership information to investigate financial wrongdoings on those who really owns companies.

The UK will publish its own register of company beneficial ownership from June 2016. This will make it clear who the real owners of companies are. The UK will be the first major country to have this type of list in place where the information will be free for anyone to access.

The Government's wider offshore tax evasion strategy has been strengthened by the introduction of a new clause which will establish new civil penalties for enablers of offshore tax evasion. These penalties consist of a new financial penalty, and a new naming power.

It will be the case that where the enabler makes an unprompted disclosure of the fact that they enabled offshore tax evasion or non-compliance and assists HMRC, reductions in penalties will apply and the enabler will not be named. The clause is intended to encourage enablers to come forward to HMRC, and make a maximum disclosure of information. It is not intended to penalise unknowing and unintentional enablers.

The Government will also introduce tough new measures for those who persistently enter into tax avoidance schemes that are defeated by HMRC. These include a special reporting requirement and a surcharge on those whose latest return is inaccurate due to use of a defeated scheme, the names of such avoiders being published and, for those who persistently abuse reliefs, restrictions on them accessing certain tax reliefs for a period. The Government is also widening the Promoters of Tax Avoidance Schemes (POTAS) regime, by bringing in promoters whose schemes are regularly defeated by HMRC.

HMRC collected £517.7 billion from UK taxpayers in 2014-15, some £11.9 billion more than in 2013-14. Total tax revenue has increased in each of the past 5 years, during which HMRC reduced its running costs from £3.4 billion to £3.1 billion.

These efforts, alongside the Government's international approach to tackling tax avoidance, means that the UK is now leading the group of 94 countries on tax matters and continues to bring down these harmful tax practices.

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