Ad campaign to target UK’s offshore tax evaders

by Luke Balleny | | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 24 February 2014 17:33 GMT

Shadows are cast onto the ground in St Helier, Jersey, the British offshore tax haven. November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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“We are closing in on you”, the UK's tax collection agency tells taxpayers who have hidden their money in offshore accounts

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new advertising campaign by the UK’s tax collection agency will target British taxpayers who have hidden their money in offshore accounts.

The advertisement will feature a pair of eyes looking through a torn map of the world with the catchline “We are closing in on you.”

The advertising campaign by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will run in national newspapers and magazines starting on Monday.

"We are getting more and more information that helps us to target offshore tax cheats more effectively than ever before," Jennie Granger, HMRC’s head of enforcement and compliance, said in a statement.

"If you have assets offshore you need to get in touch with us urgently, because we will catch up with you... The days of hiding money in another country to cheat the UK are coming to an end," Granger added.

According to HMRC, anyone who fails to declare the tax they owe will have to pay the tax itself as well as penalties of up to twice that sum, and could face imprisonment.

The advertising campaign was launched in Australia by British Chancellor George Osborne who was attending a meeting of G20 finance ministers in which a new global standard to automatic tax information exchange was agreed.

The main targets of the G20 agreement are the multinational organizations which exploit tax loopholes by shifting their profits from high tax countries to those with lower corporation taxes.

"The UK government is on the side of the hardworking majority of people and companies who pay the tax they owe," Osborne said.

"By taking global action to reform the system alongside a tough approach to enforcing the law at home, we will close the net on those who think they do not have to play by the rules," Osborne added.

Corporate tax evasion is also a challenge for poor countries, which typically have the least developed tax systems and enforcement. Around $160 billion each year fail to reach developing nations because of multinationals' tax avoidance, according to a recent report by Christian Aid. That is more than they receive in aid from rich nations.

Global tax evasion could be costing more than $3 trillion a year according to researchers from Tax Justice Network, while as much as $32 trillion - twice the size of U.S. gross domestic product - could be stashed away in tax havens.

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