British expatriates who divide their time between their home country and the Gulf could have their financial information handed to UK authorities under a campaign to recover lost taxes. The UK's HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was Wednesday given permission to order more than 300 banks and financial institutions in the UK to give details of the accounts of UK nationals with offshore interests, as it tries to uncover international tax havens.
Legal experts say the initiative could snare British expatriates who live and work abroad but spend part of their time each year in the UK. "If you have someone who is British and living in the Emirates but has strong connections in the UK, there's a risk they may not be paying enough tax and may face an inquiry from the revenue," said Ray McCann, a director of banking and capital markets for PricewaterhouseCoopers in the UK.
Revenue authorities around the world are becoming increasingly keen to trace and recoup unpaid taxes as receipts slide because of the global financial crisis. Investors will be given an amnesty of up to 90 days from September 1 to volunteer details of their deposits in return for limited penalties. Officials said those who failed to make a full disclosure risked a penalty of 30 per cent of the unpaid tax and possible criminal prosecution.
Individuals may also have their names published on the internet if the unpaid tax exceeds £25,000 (Dh151,150). "This is a blanket policy action and any British expatriate with an address in the UK who spends sufficient time in the UK is at risk," said Al Harith Sinclair, the Middle East head of financial regulation for the law firm DLA Piper. Under UK law, a UK national is classified as a resident of the country if they spend more than 183 days in the UK in the tax year and visit the country more than 91 days in the tax year over four consecutive years.
HMRC said the banks to be issued with disclosure notices included international banks with branches in the UK. "I urge any of those who have unpaid tax liabilities connected to these accounts, now or in the past, to come forward and make a full disclosure ? because we will use the information provided by the 300 banks to pursue those people who continue to flout the UK's tax laws," said Dave Hartnett, the HMRC permanent secretary for tax.
As part of a similar initiative, HMRC struck a deal with Liechtenstein banks on Tuesday that could see the closure of about 5,000 UK investors' accounts holding a total of up to £3 billion, unless customers volunteered details of their deposits. The UK government has previously signed deals with tax havens such as Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man and the British Virgin Islands involving the transfer of financial data on UK residents.
Since HMRC launched its disclosure campaign in 2007, about 50 banks have been asked to provide information on its account holders. Its first initiative in 2007 raised £450 million from about 45,000 people. @Email:email@example.com