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Nowhere to hide

HMRC were in the headlines again at the weekend, this time over plans to introduce a new criminal offence of failing to declare taxable offshore income - punishable by an unlimited fine and a prison sentence. HMRC will consult on the detail later in the year, and no doubt objections will be raised at that point, but it seems likely that this will soon become part of HMRC's array of new powers to tackle tax avoidance.

Over the last few years, HMRC have become much better at identifying offshore tax evaders and collecting the tax due - recovering £1.5bn in the last two years alone. And in the next few years HMRC can be expected to step up their efforts in this area. Awash with data from foreign banks and other institutions, and armed with better analysis techniques, HMRC will be better placed than ever before to flush out hidden cash.

The message is clear: if you are hiding income or assets abroad then the chances are that HMRC will find out. And then you could face a penalty of up to 200% of the tax, or worse in the future if HMRC get their way.

Much better to come clean now, ideally using one of HMRC's disclosure facilities under which you can expect a smoother ride with reduced penalties.

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