March 3, 2010 4:55 pm

Naming and shaming law comes into force

A fresh assault on tax evasion has been launched by HM Revenue & Custom after new legislation allowing the publication of names and details of individuals and companies came into force on Wednesday.

The laws allow the Revenue to make public the names and details of individuals and companies who are caught dodging their taxes from 1 April 2010.

Stephen Timms, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “It is only right that people pay their fair share of tax, which supports vital public services. We know that law-abiding taxpayers will want to see the results of HMRC’s investigations into tax cheats.

“This new approach should make people think again about trying to get away with tax fraud. As well as having to pay the tax, interest on the tax, plus penalties of up to 100 per cent of the tax lost, they also now risk being identified publicly.”

Taxpayers were given until January 4 to inform the Revenue that they were planning to hand over unpaid tax under The New Disclosure Opportunity (NDO). It is thought that only around 10,000 have come forward.

Under the terms of the agreement those people who make a full disclosure about money they hold offshore will have to repay all the tax they owe, as well as a penalty of 10 per cent, while those who do not take advantage of the scheme and are found to have undisclosed tax liabilities will face penalties of between 30 per cent and 100 per cent of the amount they owe, as well as the risk of criminal prosecution.

The Revenue has warned that from March 12 it will launch investigations into individuals it believes have underpaid tax, using details on accounts it is obtaining from more than 300 banks.

The first disclosure campaign along these lines was staged in 2007 and was targeted at customers of the main High Street banks. This raised £450m from 45,000 people.

Stephen Camm, tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Being named publicly in this way could be likened to ‘ASBOs for tax evaders’ causing a lot of damage to the individual’s personal and commercial reputation.

“It may seem insensitive to ‘name and shame’ in this way, but it will have a bigger impact for some than a straight-forward financial penalty, demolishing the facade of respectability that they would have previously maintained.”

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