Specialist advisor warns tax evaders ‘HMRC will be rubbing their hands’, following latest data hack25 Oct 2017
The announcement of a data hack at Appleby, one of the world’s largest providers of offshore legal services, could produce a treasure trove of information for HMRC to rival the Panama Papers and then some.
Here, specialist tax investigations solicitor and Executive Partner for Manchester commercial law firm Kuits, Robert Levy, shares his insight:
“Until the extent of the hack is known, we cannot know how much data will fall into the public domain and into the hands of tax authorities worldwide. For those clients whose affairs are tax compliant, they have little to fear beyond perhaps unwanted questions from their tax authority and loss of privacy. However, for clients who are not tax compliant, just the knowledge that this data may fall into the hands of the authorities will be enough to reinforce HMRC’s message that there are no safe havens for those looking to evade tax by hiding their assets offshore.
“Of course, as with Panama, there are many legitimate users of offshore structures and Appleby is a reputable provider of legal services. However, the fact reputable firms such as Appleby may advise in respect of offshore structures will not protect the people behind those structures if they are using them to hide their assets from the taxman behind a wall of secrecy.
“That wall of secrecy is slowly but surely being breached by data hackers, by international treaties and cooperation, and by money laundering regulations and cross-border legislation.
“For those who are still using these structures to hide assets from the tax authorities, the message is clear. It’s time for you to think carefully about that strategy and to consider cleaning up your affairs before HMRC clean them up for you. If HMRC get to you before you get to them, expect a much higher risk of prosecution and a much higher level of penalties.
“Taking legal advice under privilege is the safe way to learn about your exposure and your options. Not taking advice makes you a hostage to fortune and, in this case, fortune is highly unlikely to favour the brave.”
Kuits is one of the most experienced law firms in the country advising clients in relation to serious tax investigations and disclosures. Call Robert Levy for advice on +44 (0)161 838 7867 or contact us.