Article paru dans Guardian le 24 Mars 2010
Budget 2010: Chancellor targets tax havens – including Belize
Tax information exchange agreements to be signed by Dominica, Grenada and Belize, home of Conservative party deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft
Tax cheats who use offshore tax havens to hide income have been targeted with a wide-ranging package of anti-avoidance measures which will raise £1.5bn and protect tax revenues of £4bn over the next three years.
Anyone deliberately concealing offshore income or gains faces a tough new penalty of up to 200% of the unpaid tax. The size of the penalty will be linked to tax transparency of the haven used. The penalties will not apply in any jurisdiction which automatically shares tax information with UK investigators.
To help identify tax avoiders, the government will sign tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) with three havens: Dominica, Grenada and Belize – the latter home to Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative party’s deputy chairman. An enhanced information exchange agreement has been signed with Liechtenstein and the chancellor said the new agreements will be completed within days.
The Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF) was set up in August 2009 and runs until 31 March 2015. It allows people with unpaid taxes linked to investments or assets in Liechtenstein to settle their tax liability, including interest and penalties. It is estimated that, over the lifetime of the LDF, this will bring in £940m.
Under a TIEA, UK tax investigators can ask for information from the co-signatory country about any person who is under scrutiny. However, some commentators believe TIEAs have limited value because of the level of information that must be disclosed about the taxpayer under investigation. In particular, the UK authorities must explain why they think the information is being held in the jurisdiction in question.
Domestic avoidance is also targeted and the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes regime is being tightened. Penalties for failing to disclose a scheme will be increased and schemes specifically designed to allow taxpayers to avoid paying the top 50% rate of income tax will be caught in the disclosure scheme net.
This is part of a broader attack by the government on schemes which are designed to classify income, with a top rate of 50%, as a capital gain, which attracts a rate of 18%.
During 2010 the government will consult on the taxation of returns from geared growth arrangements connected with employment-related securities to ensure that income from employment is taxed correctly. It will also take action to tackle avoidance through the use of trusts and other vehicles to reward employees.
The rules relating to « transactions in securities » are being simplified to better target avoidance schemes in this area. This takes effect immediately and will close a number of schemes which exploited the loophole. Avoidance schemes using Company Share Option Plans and Share Incentive Plans have also been targeted.
Alongside these measures the tax authorities are tightening the rules relating to gift aid for charities to protect against the increased risk of fraud and abuse. Compliance processes and the gift aid repayment claims process are being overhauled to support the new rules