Those with wealth hidden offshore are being given a last chance to confess to the taxman ahead of tough new penalties being introduced in two years’ time.
The new disclosure facility launched by HM Revenue & Customs offers no special terms, meaning those who come forward will pay the tax in full, with interest and a minimum penalty of 30 per cent of the tax due for evaders, and they could still face criminal prosecution.
From today HMRC will also consider how long it has taken for someone to put their tax affairs in order when calculating penalties, meaning those who delayed disclosing will no longer get a reduction for disclosure.
Those who do not come forward will through the new Worldwide Disclosure Facility will face tougher penalties which include a minimum 100 per cent fine.
Jennie Granger, HMRC’s director general of enforcement and compliance, said: “HMRC is getting even tougher on tax evasion.
“We relentlessly pursue tax evaders to ensure they pay every penny of the taxes and fines they owe, pushing for the toughest possible sanctions where appropriate.
“Our message couldn’t be clearer: there are no safe havens left for tax evaders and no-one should be in any doubt that the days of hiding money offshore with impunity are gone.”
Under the new Common Reporting Standards regime HMRC will be sent taxpayer information from tax authorities around the world from October 2018.
Ms Granger said HMRC has already started to receive information from foreign jurisdictions on financial investments held offshore and by September 2018 more than 100 jurisdictions will be sharing this information with the UK.
Last month HMRC published a proposed new rule called the ‘requirement to correct’ which means any person with UK tax irregularities related to offshore interests must come forward and correct those liabilities by 30 September 2018.
In the wake of the Panama Papers leak in early April, the government created a taskforce lead by HMRC and the National Crime Agency, to investigate allegations of offshore tax avoidance, with £10m allocated to support it.
In 2014 to 2015 HMRC brought in £26.6bn from tackling tax evasion and avoidance and since 2010 has raised more than £2.4bn from offshore evasion initiatives.