United Kingdom

Exchange of information / offshore assets 

The drive for international tax transparency by governments and tax authorities across the world continues at an unprecedented pace. Whilst the main reason for this is to combat tax evasion it is important to recognise that all UK residents who hold assets overseas could be impacted by these developments.

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Timeline

Various tax information agreements will result in HMRC receiving account holder names and addresses, account numbers, year-end account balances and details of payments made into these accounts. As well as personal accounts, we believe information on certain accounts held by entities, such as trusts, controlled by UK people will be provided to HMRC. Jurisdictions involved are committed to taking action to ensure they're at the forefront of transparency on company ownership. Whilst most agreements remain to be finalised, and more developments are anticipated the story so far is (latest first):

 

April 2014George Osborne announces plans to give new powers to HMRC to make it easier to prosecute people who evade taxes by hiding money offshore.  Currently HMRC must demonstrate that individuals intended to evade tax on foreign income but in future the government wants to be able to bring criminal prosecutions against anyone found to have undeclared foreign income, whether this is due to deliberate actions or not.

 

HMRC will be in receipt of increasing amounts of information from many countries as a result of international cooperation and transparency.  Whilst there are an increasing number of people prosecuted for tax evasion the vast majority of cases continue to be concluded by HMRC for a civil financial settlement.  This is expected to continue for those who are coming forward to put matters straight.

 

The chancellor said the Revenue would consult on strengthening the penalties for offshore tax evasion and seek to improve incentives for whistleblowers “it is totally unacceptable for people not to pay the tax that is due and the message will be clear now with this new criminal offence that if you’re evading tax offshore, there is no safe haven and we will find you,” Mr Osborne said.

 

January 2014 – The UK signs an automatic tax information sharing agreement with Anguilla. All British Overseas Territories have now signed IGAs with the UK.

 

November 2013 - The UK signs automatic tax information sharing agreements with the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Montserrat, Turks & Caicos, the British Virgin Islands and Gibraltar. .

 

October 2013 - The UK signs automatic tax information sharing agreements with Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. It is currently anticipated that the first information to be exchanged (between Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man with the UK) will be on 30 September 2016. This will be in relation to account details for calendar years 2014 and 2015.

 

29 May 2013 - the OECD's Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters received further support in a signing ceremony. The Convention provides a comprehensive multilateral framework for automatically exchanging tax information. The signatories to the Convention are Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

 

May 2013 - HMRC announce that is working with the tax authorities of the US and Australia on data they have received which reveals extensive use of overseas structures to conceal assets by wealthy individuals and companies.  The 400 gigabytes of data is being analysed but it is understood the initial results show the use of companies and trusts in a number of territories across the world including Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Cook Islands.  HMRC have invested significantly in technology tools and data analysts in recent periods to efficiently review voluminous data.

 

April/May 2013 - Cayman, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat & the Turks and Caicos Islands agree to much greater levels of transparency with the UK for accounts held in those jurisdictions. Gibraltar has also made the same commitments. All jurisdictions have agreed to pilot automatic exchange of information bilaterally with UK and multilaterally with the G5.

 

April 2013 - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK agree to develop and pilot multilateral tax information exchange based on the UK/US agreement.

 

April 2013 - HMRC launch the Jersey Disclosure Facility (JDF), the Guernsey Disclosure Facility (GDF) and the Isle of Man Disclosure Facility (MDF) to enable those with undisclosed assets in those jurisdictions to make a disclosure.

 

March 2013 - Jersey and Guernsey agree to greater automatic exchange of information with the UK.

 

February 2013 -The Isle of Man agrees to greater automatic exchange of information with the UK.

 

January 2013 - The UK Switzerland Tax Agreement comes into force.  UK persons who are the beneficial owner of assets held in Switzerland are required to opt for disclosure or withholding tax. Special rules apply for UK resident non domiciled persons

 

September 2012 - The UK and US are the first to sign an agreement to tackle tax evasion. This is based on the G5 model.

 

June 2012 - The UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain (the G5) agree a model information exchange agreement with the United States setting a new standard in the fight against tax evasion.

 

August 2009 - The Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF) continues through to 5 April 2016. This is a worldwide disclosure facility that offers unique and beneficial terms, including for those with no pre-existing asset in Liechtenstein. An asset in Liechtenstein must be acquired to access the LDF (this can be done any time up to 5 April 2016).

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Derek Scott

Derek Scott
+44 (0)20 7311 2618