HMRC maintains its pressure on tax evaders with offshore assets

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) made 640 requests to overseas governments for information on individuals’ tax affairs during the last financial year, according to figures released today.

Australia was by far the most targeted country, with 96 requests made by HMRC for information on individuals associated with the country. Spain (49 requests) and Ireland (38 requests) were in second and third place.

The requests were made under Double Taxation Agreements, which are designed to avoid income being taxed twice in different countries but also hand inspectors the right to check the value of an individual’s declared overseas assets.

However the figures, uncovered by law firm Pinsent Masons, also show the total number of HMRC requests during the period was down 40 per cent on the 857 made during the 2010-2011 tax year.

Phil Berwick of Pinsent Masons said: “HMRC will come down very heavily on those it suspects are hiding assets. It is far better to get on the front foot and tell HMRC about an undisclosed offshore asset or other problem before HMRC finds out begins an investigation.”

He attributed this year’s decline in the number of requests to a burst of activity in previous years, which has also led to more voluntary disclosures of tax evasion.

“HMRC has begun investigations into thousands of individuals with overseas assets in the last few years, and will probably have picked off most of the low hanging fruit.”