New sanctions to tackle offshore tax evasion have been announced in April 2014. HMRC has published No Safe Havens 2014, a document that details the progress made in tackling offshore tax evasion, the new actions being taken, and how HMRC intends to exploit data sources better in order to influence behaviour.

Specific actions mentioned in the document include:

  • Introducing legislation to implement the new OECD standard in automatic exchange of information between governments.
  • Consulting on strengthening the existing civil sanctions, including penalties for offshore tax evasion.
  • Consulting on the detail of a new strict liability criminal offence for failing to declare untaxed offshore assets.
  • Paying rewards to whistle-blowers who, in HMRC's view, provide significant information that helps tackle offshore tax evasion.

The chancellor, Goerge Osborne also announced earlier this month that a new “strict liability” criminal offence for failing to declare untaxed offshore assets will be introduced:

  • HMRC would no longer need to prove that individuals who have undeclared income offshore intended to evade tax, in order for a criminal conviction to be handed down.
  • HMRC would only have to demonstrate the income was taxable and undeclared.
  • This will be subject to forthcoming consultation.

Paul Aplin, chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ Tax Faculty Technical Committee, said: “As a profession, we are fully behind the Government’s and HMRC’s efforts to tackle tax evasion. However, we have considerable concerns about these new proposals. Should such sweeping powers be introduced, there needs to be strong safeguards to protect innocent tax payers from the risk of mistakes or misuse by HMRC.”

In February 2014 HMRC announced a new campaign which would run from 24 February 2014 targetting offshore account holders who are tax avoiders. Somewhat confusingly that campaign is not presently listed in HMRC's list of current campaigns however voluntary disclosure is possible in general terms.