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UK plans criminal penalties for tax advisers who assist evasion

By Neasa MacErlean

19 March 2015 at 07:53 BST

Lawyers and other tax advisers who aid clients evade tax will the the subject of penalties under a new criminal offence which is to be announced by the UK government today.

The plan was disclosed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Obsorne in his Budget speech yesterday - in which he made reference to a new criminal offence linked to tax evasion and 'new penalties for professional advisers who assist'. Details will be given by the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, today. 

Financial penalties

Mr Alexander spoke of his plans in February. He talked about advisers having to pay penalties equal to the losses made by their clients. He said: '..for example, if their customers have to pay back hundreds of millions of pounds in tax, then those organisations should have to match that with hundreds of millions of pounds of their own money, and I think that is a very tough disincentive for them to get involved in this in the first place.' He said that his party, the Liberal Democrats, would criminalise 'corporate failure to prevent economic crime'. The Liberal Democrats are part of the governing coalition now - and their proposals could be taken up by other parties.

Blurred line

While many law firms have been careful not to advise clients that could be seen as tax evasion, there may be concern about a blurring of the line - even by legislators and enforcers - between legitimate tax reduction (avoidance) and illegal tax evasion. Sources: The Guardian


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