Crackdown to name and shame tax avoiders


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The Independent Online

Companies which are running aggressive tax-avoidance schemes will be forced to provide the Government with details of their celebrity and business clients under a crackdown to be announced today.

To tackle promoters of "contrived" tax schemes Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs intends to contact rich beneficiaries and warn them of the financial cost of deliberately avoiding tax. Companies which fail to disclose their tax-avoidance schemes could also be "named and shamed" and face hefty fines – while the individuals behind them will be forced to take personal liability for promoting them.

The new measures come in the wake of the pubic outcry over the tax affairs of the comedian Jimmy Carr who sheltered £3.3m through an off-shore scheme. Such arrangements are not illegal but their ethics have been questioned.

Mr Carr is believed to be among thousands of wealthy people who pay as little as 1 per cent income tax using "below-the-radar" accounting.

Individual tax avoidance costs the economy £4.5bn out of £7bn lost in total every year, according to HMRC. Globally, as much as £13trn is thought to be sheltered in offshore tax havens, new research published yesterday suggests.

According to a study by the former chief economist at the management consultants McKinsey, much of the money is managed by a small number of private banks including UBS and Goldman Sachs and placed in overseas tax havens like the Cayman Islands. Goldman Sachs and UBS have yet to comment.

The Treasury estimates that there are around 20 firms which are offering bespoke tax-avoidance plans to wealthy people.