Tackling offshore tax evasion has been a focus of UK government for – what seems like – forever, yet recent developments and agreements will see HM Revenue & Customs move one step closer to fighting offshore account holders. At the end of last month HM Revenue & Customs launched a campaign to target offshore tax evasion. The adverts feature a pair of eyes peering through a torn map of the world, verbalising the threat: “We are closing in on you.” This creepy campaign is sure to shake up tax avoiders and urge them to get in touch with HMRC. Be sure to keep an eye out for the advert in national newspapers and weekly magazines.
The campaign was launched shortly after the Chancellor, George Osborne, attended the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in Australia. At the meeting countries agreed new standards on exchanging information about offshore bank accounts and planned the next steps in the global fight against tax evasion. Significant agreements have been made, namely OECD’s new global standard to share tax information. The agreement expands upon the UK’s current agreements with Crown dependencies and overseas territories. As of 25 February, 42 countries and jurisdictions had joined up to the initiative.
This access to new information will enable HMRC to remove hiding places for tax evaders – and with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, it’s time to confess or face significant fines or, in some cases, even imprisonment. As well as being under threat of criminal prosecution, tax evaders could face fines of 200% of the tax owed.
Osborne makes no qualms when it comes to tax avoidance. He said: “[Tax evasion] means that others have to pay higher taxes and, as a society, we all have to make a contribution.” He added: “The UK Government is on the side of the hardworking majority of people and companies who pay the tax they owe. By taking global action to reform the system alongside a tough approach to enforcing law at home, we will close the net on those who think they do not have to play by the rules.” Osborne said that we’re set to achieve a “real breakthrough” on tax, which will wave goodbye to individuals hiding money offshore. As countries pull together and information is shared on a global scale, we’ve got something of a ‘Big Brother’ effect going on. HMRC’s campaign could not be closer to ‘Big Brother is watching you’ if it tried. And for tax evaders who have read 1984, this advert is sure send a chill down their spines. So, for those who are taking part in tax evasion – it’s time to confess or risk being put in room 101.