The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne recently recommended that more aggressive measures against tax evasion, fraud and avoidance would have been included in next month’s budget.
Such measures would target accountants and bankers that aid and abet tax fraud of this kind, including individuals that offer advice on how to evade tax. The move comes after the fallout of the HSBC scandal, where stolen data from the company’s Swiss banking operation revealed details of alleged tax evasion by various wealthy clients of its private Swiss bank. The matter was complicated further when reports showed that some of HSBC’s Swiss clients were offered services that would help them to dodge the tax they owed; for instance, once such service was to provide clients with ‘bricks’ of cash in foreign currencies that were untraceable.
Swiss clients were also given the opportunity to hide undeclared wealth by setting up offshore companies.
The HMRC scandal has sparked a great deal of debt among financial experts and governmental employees, with public demand for action rising to the forefront. In response to the growing pressure to respond, George Osborne, during Commons exchanges with Shadows Chancellor Ed Balls, said this about his plans for the budget:
“Anyone involved in tax evasion, whatever your role, this government is coming after you. Unlike the last government, who simply turned a blind eye, this government is taking action now and will do so again at the budget.”
Later it was revealed by a government source that there were plans to introduce new financial and civil penalties to anyone involved in the assistance and abetting of tax evasion.
What is tax fraud?
Tax fraud is a general term that covers different forms of illegal activity related specifically to tax matters. Generally, tax fraud is related to the taxpayer’s intent to defraud the government by not paying taxes that he knows are legally due, whether by failing to disclose the correct figures or knowingly falsifying the figures on a tax return in order to manipulate the amount of tax owed and paid.
Forms of tax fraud include but is not limited to:
• Claiming false discounts
• Claiming personal expenses as business ones
• Failing to report income
The issue of tax fraud is one that continues to be a cause of concern for the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as losses are incurred to the government. Because of this, the crime is a focus for prosecution. If the HMRC suspects a person or business of tax evasion, then they are liable to be prosecuted.
Prosecution in such cases requires a great deal of meticulous analysis by solicitors and accountants. As tax fraud concerns finance, the investigations tend to be very complex and can result in lengthy court proceedings.