Tax evaders face harsh fines

THE government outlined intentions to raise £500m in tax revenues yesterday by imposing a heavy penalty on evasion, at the same time announcing it was to sign information exchange agreements with a trio of countries.

Chancellor Alistair Darling detailed plans of implementing a 200 per cent tax penalty on Britons found guilty of using offshore accounts to evade payments.

Darling said the government will expect £4bn in tax revenues by 2013 after adopting these measures.

He said it was “unfair” that some people were able to escape tax obligations while others suffered hardship.

“HMRC has set out its stall. If you open an account in a secretive jurisdiction and don’t tell HMRC about it, then, if it does find out, it will consider charging a penalty of 200 per cent of the tax due – thereby potentially tripling the overall bill,” said Chris Maddock, head of private clients at accountants Vantis.

He also said that Dominica, Belize and Grenada are ready to sign tax information share agreements with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to monitor UK citizens with offshore bank accounts.

The UK signed a similar agreement with Liechtenstein in August last year to start exchanging information on the reported 5,000 British investors who had accounts in the tax haven.

Darling said yesterday that the agreement has already brought in £1bn in tax revenues.

Matthew Hodkin, tax partner at law firm Norton Rose said: “The real work had been done in last year’s budget when the package of measures including the 50 per cent tax rate was introduced. He talked about measures previously announced.”