Offshore tax evasion unit launched as tax avoidance debate continues

HMRC has launched a new offshore tax unit to target those hiding income and capital in offshore accounts.

The Offshore Co-ordination Unit (OCU), will consist of offshore analysts, technical tax experts, and experienced investigators who will fully exploit the increasing amount of offshore information made available to HMRC.

Commenting, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, said:

“The days when untaxed income or capital could be safely salted away offshore, beyond the reaches of the taxman, are long gone.

“The launch of this specialist unit, together with the other valuable work the department is driving forward in an effort to tackle offshore evasion, underlines the fact that offshore tax cheats are fast running out of places to hide.”

Meanwhile, Graham Aaronson QC has set out his recommendation to the Government for the introduction of a narrowly focussed general anti-abuse rule (GAAR) to the UK tax system.

According to Aaronson, if properly implemented this would deter abusive tax avoidance schemes, reduce legal uncertainty, help build trust between taxpayers and HMRC, and offer opportunities to simplify the tax system.

Speaking in response to the publication of the review’s recommendations, David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“The Government is committed to tackling tax avoidance. We asked Graham Aaronson to consider whether a UK GAAR could deter and counter tax avoidance, while providing certainty, retaining a tax regime that is attractive to businesses, and minimising costs for businesses and HMRC. We welcome the completion of his study and will carefully consider its recommendations against these criteria, alongside the feedback from businesses and tax professionals that we look forward to receiving.”