The Offshore Co-ordination Unit, based in Birmingham, is the latest attempt by HM Revenue & Customs to clamp down on tax evasion. The unit will concentrate on the co-ordination of all information received, starting with details of taxpayers in the UK with bank accounts overseas.
The recent Liechtenstein treaty forms part of the investigations, with HMRC having more data than the British Library, about 80 times more. The man in charge of the new unit is Greg Skyte, who is currently in charge of a team of around 25 members which is due to expand to 100 over the next few years.
The first project for the Birmingham team was to issue letters to the initial 1000 people who are said to have bank accounts in the Swiss HSBC bank. A total of 6000 account holders have been uncovered. Account holders will be expected to provide confirmation that they don’t have any tax due to HMRC, and if they do they will be expected to come forward.
The deal with Liechtenstein has already brought in £140 million, as 1721 people have volunteered information of accounts held there, untaxed in the UK. Liechtenstein banks are to write to UK customers, asking if they have declared all taxable income to the authorities in the UK. If they can’t confirm this, they will have their accounts closed down.
Greg admits that they don’t have sufficient staff to deal with offshore tax evasion on a large scale, but all details will be held on file for further investigation by HMRC and foreign authorities.
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