Treasury to announce tax evasion clampdown

Tax dodging protestors Image copyright PA

Details are starting to come out about Government plans to overhaul the law on tax evasion.

I am told that an announcement will be made in Parliament this morning about a two pronged attack on the issue.

The first prong will be concerned with the thorny issue of "intent".

It's understood that tax investigation authorities will no longer have to prove intent to evade tax via offshore accounts to prosecute.

'Aiding and abetting'

The difficulty of proving intent has been one of the major reasons for tax evasion cases collapsing or never being taken in the first place.

For the background to this new policy, here's my blog from February revealing the move by George Osborne.

The second part of the package will be around the issue of "aiding and abetting" tax evasion.

Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, spoke about it on the Andrew Marr Show last month.

Mr Alexander, who will make the Commons announcement, said then: "We should create a new offence of corporate failure to avoid preventing an economic crime and also that organisations [which] facilitate or encourage evasion should face the same penalty as the evaders themselves.

"Organisations, be they accountants, banks or whatever, who help people evade tax will be liable for this new offence and crucially liable for financial penalties."

Fair shares

Of course, if the rules had been in place a decade ago, HSBC may now be facing criminal charges in the UK over allegations that its Swiss banking arm helped customers evade taxes between 2005 and 2007.

The Conservatives have always felt a little sensitive to the charge that they have failed to act on tax avoidance and evasion because they have a lot of wealthy backers.

Critics say it is the wealthy who use clever tax structures so they don't pay "their fair share" of tax, as the chancellor often puts it.

The Government believes that the action it is announcing today will head off at least some of the criticism.

"We are coming after you," the chancellor told tax evaders on the Today programme this morning.

We'll see.