In the current war on tax evasion HMRC have just been handed a powerful weapon. The taxman has been passed details of more than 4,000 Brits holding offshore bank accounts with HSBC in Jersey: according to a report in The Telegraph today.
A whistleblower, believed to be a former employee of the bank, has leaked details of bank accounts held in the HSBC Jersey bank of over 8,000 people. More than 4,000 of them are based in the UK. HMRC’s Offshore Coordination Unit is already investigating around another 4,000 UK residents who were on the so-called ‘Lagarde list’ of people with accounts with HSBC’s Swiss banks. The individuals being investigated by the OCU in Birmingham and its ancillary Risk and Intelligence Service have currently been written to, and are undergoing tax investigations.
It is highly likely that account holders with HSBC Jersey will also shortly be investigated. It is not yet known how many of these will lead to criminal prosecutions. A large number are likely to be dealt with under the Code of Practice 9 Contractual Disclosure Facility arrangements. It is highly likely that most of these people will be able to use the current tax amnesty, the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility in order to obtain favourable terms. This is a controversial disclosure facility but one which HMRC is keen for people to use. Anyone not making a disclosure faces an aggressive and intrusive tax enquiry.
A spokesman for HMRC was quoted as saying “we can confirm we have received the data and we are studying it.” The Telegraph believes that this is the biggest data leak identifying holders of offshore bank accounts ever obtained by the UK tax authority. They say that 4,388 Brits have been identified, holding assets of around £699 million. There are also further billions of pounds held in various investment schemes.
It is understood that the list has large numbers of city bankers on the list. However, there are also said to be a large numbers of British residents from “relatively poorer parts” of the UK who have six-figure bank balances.
What does this mean for me?
If you have an offshore bank account it is clear that the net is closing in. HMRC are currently trawling through information regarding British residents with HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland and now Jersey. The recent Swiss Tax Agreement means that any British residents with Swiss bank accounts will now have to disclose or face a punitive tax charge. HMRC has also obtained information about thousands of people with other offshore accounts in various jurisdictions.
Senior tax officials are busy negotiating further exchange agreements with other so-called tax havens. The banks themselves are coming under increasing pressure from governments worldwide to make further disclosures regarding offshore bank accounts held.
If you have an offshore bank account and need to regularise your tax position it is essential that you act urgently. Voluntary disclosures can now be made in order to avert criminal prosecution and also reduce penalties. The Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility can still be used to obtain extremely favourable terms.
Worried about an offshore bank account?
Lynam Tax Enquiry Experts have substantial experience of the key issues. We are helping many clients and their agents with the current tax amnesty.
*For a free, private, no obligation consultation, don’t delay, call Paul Lynam today: on 0845 643 9997