A new corporate criminal offence of failing to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion will also be introduced this year, with companies held liable if an individual acting on their behalf as an employee or contractor facilitates tax evasion. Previous rules meant a corporate criminal prosecution was only possible if there was proof that the board of directors were aware and involved in facilitating the evasion.
Announcing the new penalties, the financial secretary to the Treasury Jane Ellison said: “Tax evasion is a crime and as a government we have led reform of the international tax system to root it out. Closer to home we are creating a tax system where taxes are fair, competitive and paid. The raft of measures we have introduced to tackle avoidance and evasion will create a level playing field for the vast majority of people and businesses who play fair and pay what is due.”
The new crackdown, first announced by the then chancellor George Osborne in the 2015 budget, will mean HMRC can, for the first time, penalise the facilitators of tax evasion who help to physically move funds abroad or advise on offshore tax saving.
The Treasury said the government’s new powers would see individuals or corporations who take deliberate action to help others evade paying tax facing fines of up to 100% of the tax they helped evade or £3,000, whichever is highest.
Tax advisers, accountants and lawyers who aid the super-rich with offshore tax evasion will face tough new penalties from New Year’s Day, with HMRC now able to publicly name and shame “enablers”.