Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 09:59 UK

More banks told 'reveal accounts'

Liechtenstein view
Liechtenstein may hold about 5,000 hidden UK accounts

More than 300 UK and foreign banks have been told to hand over details of UK taxpayers who have accounts offshore.

The order was made by the Tax Chamber, the newly established tribunal designed to resolve tax disputes.

The HMRC is about to launch a second offer to people to confess if they have been hiding untaxed money abroad.

The decision of the tribunal means that if these people do not do so, the Revenue will be able to identify them, and their accounts, anyway.

"Today we have successfully applied to get information on the offshore accounts and assets of customers of over 300 further banks," said Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary for Tax at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

"I urge any of them who have unpaid tax liabilities connected to these accounts now or in the past to come forward and make a full disclosure during the NDO because we will use the information provided by the 300 banks to pursue those people who continue to flout the UK's tax laws," he said.

This week the UK government signed a breakthrough deal with the tax haven of Liechtenstein aimed at flushing out about 5,000 UK taxpayers who are thought to have between £2bn and £3bn hidden in bank accounts and trusts there.

Disclosure

The first attempt by the HMRC to prise open hidden offshore bank accounts was staged in 2007.

I don't think anyone has any idea how much money is there
Bob Rothenburg of accountants Blick Rothenburg.

The "offshore disclosure facility" was aimed at the customers of the five biggest UK High Street banks.

Those banks were told by the Revenue to reveal full details of all their offshore account holders so it could see if they had failed to pay tax.

That campaign raised about £450m from 45,000 people and was preceded by an identical legal decision giving the HMRC the power to demand those account details.

"There was an amnesty a couple of years ago and they [HMRC] were slightly surprised by how little came in," said Bob Rothenburg of accountants Blick Rothenburg.

"The hope is another amnesty will generate more money, but I don't think anyone has any idea how much money is there," he added.

Further campaign

This September the Revenue launches a second campaign to flush out unpaid offshore tax, called the New Disclosure Opportunity, which will run until the end of 12 March 2010.

It is aimed at the customers of 308 smaller UK banks, and foreign banks with UK branches, whose customers may also have money stashed away abroad, hidden from the Revenue's view.

The HMRC hopes to raise about £500m from this, including interest and penalties.

The incentive for those people to take part and contact the Revenue is that they are being offered a maximum penalty on any unpaid tax of just 10%, instead of the theoretical maximum of 100% and the possibility of being prosecuted and "named and shamed".

"Today's ruling represents real progress in creating a level playing field for all taxpayers," said Stephen Timms MP, financial secretary to the Treasury.



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