HMRC have this week confirmed that they hold a list of the UK resident account holders of HSBC Jersey. The bank has confirmed that client data for its Jersey account holders has been lost. This follows the loss of data relating to HSBC Geneva account holders approximately 2 years ago when 6000 names were passed to HMRC by the French authorities.
This information is believed to have been passed to HMRC by a ‘whistle-blower’ who had access to the banks systems and contains over 8,000 names, of which 4,388 are UK residents.
It has been reported that the list contains the names of prominent members of the business community, the medical establishment and oil industry, in addition to several individuals linked to serious organised crime.
HMRC is already experienced in processing this type of information and have a framework in place to investigate tax evasion and, where necessary, start criminal proceedings. While HMRC have not commented on what these procedures are likely to be, we expect that the names will be passed to the offshore co-ordination Unit (OCU), who are responsible for managing these projects. We anticipate that officers will check the tax returns of the individuals named against the HSBC information to see if there is any unpaid tax.
We expect HMRC to contact the people individually, presenting them with a stark choice of either co-operating with HMRC or risk an intrusive and expensive investigation of their affairs.
We recommend that anyone affected by this development should contact their professional advisers straightaway to ensure that they have disclosed all their income and gains. If this is not the case, it is essential that specialist advice is sought straightaway to determine the best course of action.
In most cases, it is better to be proactive and voluntarily approach HMRC rather than to wait for HMRC to investigate. At present there are a number of options available to individuals who need to bring their tax affairs up to date, including the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF) which offers immunity from prosecution by HMRC, restricts the tax liabilities to the past 13 years and a fixed 10% penalty rate (to 5 April 2009).
We specialise in making voluntary disclosures to HMRC and are able to provide clear, concise and immediate advice to people affected by this development. To contact our specialists please phone TaxDesk on 0845 4900 509 and ask for John Hood or Noel Hankinson.