HMRC are getting noticeably tougher on those who try to evade tax by hiding their assets or income offshore. They are increasing the size and range of penalties charged, and increasing the number of prosecutions of serious evaders.
Broadly, a UK-resident taxpayer has a responsibility to notify HMRC of any taxable offshore income they receive. Income is considered 'offshore income' if it comes from a territory outside the United Kingdom. It includes:
interest from overseas bank or building society accounts;
dividends and interest from overseas companies;
rent from overseas properties;
wages, benefits or royalties earned outside the UK.
New legislation, known as the Requirement to Correct (RTC), will dramatically increase the penalties for people who have not declared tax or declared the wrong amount of tax on their offshore income and gains.
The purpose of the RTC legislation is to require those with undeclared offshore tax liabilities (relating to income tax, capital gains tax or inheritance tax for the relevant periods) to disclose those to HMRC on or before 30 September 2018. This will allow HMRC to take the appropriate action, for example, the collection of tax, interest and any penalties due under the appropriate legislation currently in force.
30 September 2018 was chosen as the final date for corrections as this is the date by which more than 100 countries will exchange data on financial accounts under the Common Reporting Standard (CRS).
CRS data will significantly enhance HMRC's ability to detect offshore non-compliance and it is in taxpayers' interests to correct any non-compliance before that data is received.
To ensure there is an incentive for taxpayers to correct any offshore tax non-compliance on or before 30 September 2018, there are increased penalties for any failures to correct (FTC) by that date. The new FTC penalty is likely to be much higher than the existing penalties, with a minimum penalty of 100% of the tax involved.
If taxpayers are unsure whether they have undeclared UK tax liabilities that involve offshore matters or transfers, they should check their affairs and if necessary put things right before they become liable to the new FTC penalties that will come into force on 1 October 2018.