Panama Papers scandal: What we know about the new UK tax taskforce so far

Hayley Kirton
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From who's involved to when we'll hear back, here's what we know so far (Source: Getty)

Earlier today, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that a new tax taskforce would be set up to deal with the fallout from the Panama Papers report.

(He also shared a letter from his accountant, which you may have heard about.)

While the precise details of the taskforce are still foggy, here's what we've discovered so far:

1. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was pretty busy last week

We'd guessed that last week was a little bit busier than usual for the UK's tax authority, but this morning's announcement revealed just how busy it had been. Apparently, HMRC is already following up on 700 leads relating to Panama.

Although MPs have raised concerns in the past over the agency's low levels of prosecutions for evasion, the taxman does have a fairly notable track record for cracking down on taxes, with £2bn secured from those who try to escape taxes through offshore schemes since 2010.

2. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) might need some cheering up

Poor old SFO. The fraud squad has been trying its hardest recently to boost its reputation as a prosecutor and, after last August's conviction of former trader Tom Hayes, it was probably feeling pretty self-confident. However, today's announcement revealed that the SFO would be operating underneath its figurative brother, the National Crime Agency.

However, the SFO hasn't been completely left on the bench, as it, alongside the Financial Conduct Authority, will still be contributing to the taskforce's efforts. David Cameron even said that the taskforce "will bring together the best of British expertise to deal with any wrongdoing relating to the Panama Papers".

3. Osborne's been a bit busy too

Anybody who is waiting for a reply to an email from chancellor George Osborne might find themselves out of luck. This morning's announcement revealed that Osborne has been busy collaborating with other major countries to speed up the sharing of details of beneficial ownership to smooth the process of the taskforce's work.

4. The Prime Minister has set some money aside

They say you have to spend money to make money. David Cameron is committing £10m in funding to help support the taskforce in tracking down any underpaid taxes.

5. There really is more legislation these days

The announcement also highlighted that parliament was already planning to provide at least 25 measures to make tax avoidance harder, with the aim of raising £16bn by the year 2021.

"No government has done more to make sure we crack down on tax evasion and aggressive avoidance, both here in the UK and internationally," remarked David Gauke, financial secretary to the Treasury.

Tax advisers were probably rejoicing at this news, as a study by the Centre for Policy Studies last month discovered that the complexity of the country's tax laws had pushed the cost of advice up to £1,000 an hour.

6. We should be hearing more on this before we next sing Auld Lang Syne

The announcement revealed that the taskforce would report on its progress to the home secretary and the chancellor later this year. Watch this space...

Panama papers latest: What you need to know