HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has teamed up with tax authorities in the United States and Australia to investigate data revealing the extensive use of complex offshore structures to conceal assets by wealthy individuals and companies.
HMRC said on 9 May that the 400 gigabytes of data were still being analysed but early results showed the use of companies and trusts in territories including Singapore, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and the Cook Islands. The data also contains information that may be shared with other tax administrations as part of the global fight against tax evasion.
It said that more than 100 people benefiting from such structures had so far been identified, some of whom are now are under investigation for offshore tax evasion.
HMRC has also identified more than 200 UK accountants, lawyers and other professional advisors who advise on setting up these structures who will be scrutinised.
It said UK residents using offshore structures should review their taxation arrangements, and seek advice if necessary, to ensure they are compliant with UK tax law. HMRC added that failure to make an early disclosure of tax irregularities could result in a criminal prosecution or significant financial penalties and the possibility of their identity being published.
Jennie Granger, HMRC director, enforcement and compliance said: “There is nothing illegal about an international structure, especially in a globally integrated economy and these arrangements may be perfectly legitimate and may already have been declared to HMRC.
“However they may involve tax evasion, avoidance or other serious offences by taxpayers. What has to stop is using offshore structures to illegally hide assets and income.”