HMRC requests for help over tax evasion doubles in five years

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The number of HMRC requests to foreign governments asking for assistance on cases of suspected tax evasion almost doubled over the last five years.

HMRC made 591 requests to foreign governments in 2012, a figure which rose to 1025 in 2015 and then to 1096 last year, according to Pinsent Masons.

The law firm claims that one of the major reasons for this is the rise in public pressure being applied to HMRC to come down hard on individuals suspected of having committed offshore tax evasion in high-profile cases.

Many people and organisations were ‘named and shamed’ in cases recently, with the Panama Papers scandal among the most publicised.

“Enlisting the assistance of foreign tax authorities in tax investigations is a powerful weapon in HMRC’s arsenal – one that they are not hesitating to use in their pursuit of suspected tax evaders,” said Paul Noble, head of tax investigations at Pinsent Masons.

“Since the Panama Papers leak two years ago, the issue has been pushed to the forefront of HMRC’s agenda – this is reflected in the internationally agreed legislation to increase sharing of information.

“A sizeable number of UK-based high net worths and businesses will have complex tax affairs across multiple jurisdictions. As the amount of information available to HMRC increases, they are likely to come under more scrutiny.

“Now is certainly the time for those with tax irregularities involving overseas income and assets to correct any historical non-compliance as draconian penalties of between 100 and 200 per cent of any reported tax will bite after 30 September 2018,” he continued.

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