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Alpine tax haven gets 'easy ride' from HMRC anti-avoidance team

HM Revenue & Customs is giving preferential treatment to Britons who have sheltered money offshore in Liechtenstein to avoid paying tax, a leading accountancy firm has said.

PKF accountants said it was alarmed at how Britons who had deposited money with Liechtenstein banks would face only a 10 per cent fine on unpaid tax and have to declare unpaid tax going back 10 years while other Britons with money offshore could face fines as high as 20 per cent on unpaid taxes back 20 years.

"It is wholly unfair that there are different rules for those with investments in Liechtenstein and those with investments in other offshore jurisdictions," said John Cassidy, the head of tax investigations at PKF. People with money in Liechtenstein are being asked to come forward and pay unpaid tax in exchange for a cap on fines.

An HMRC spokesman denied that it was treating one group of tax avoiders better than another. "HMRC is committed to a fair and level playing field for all taxpayers. The Liechtenstein arrangement is about making sure that everyone pays their taxes, both by clearing up the past and getting things right in the future."

HMRC has stepped up its fight to track down the names of those Britons who have deposited money overseas to avoid UK taxes. It wrote to 300 banks with offices in the UK last week telling them to reveal account details of British customers who have deposited money in branches overseas.