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UK taxman recovers nearly £3bn from offshore tax evaders

Creation of the Fraud Investigation Service boosted money retrieval

‘Free-riding’ passive investors under central bank scrutiny

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HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) efforts saw its revenue from undeclared offshore wealth rise by 42% in the last three years.

According to a freedom of information (FOI) request seen by International Adviser, the taxman collected £560m ($710m, €625m) from investigations into British taxpayers with offshore assets and income in the 2018-19 year.

That compares to £490m in 2017-16 and £325m in 2016-17.

However, a spokesperson for HMRC told IA that those figures include offshore assets, corporations and wealthy individuals.

The FOI was requested by payroll and tax compliance firm Access Financial.

Specialist investigations

The increasing sum of undisclosed wealth recovered by the taxman over the last three years also coincides with the creation of the Fraud Investigation Service (FIS) in 2016.

Its Offshore Corporate and Wealthy department (OCW) spearheads the individual cases.

A spokesperson for the Revenue told IA: “HMRC has a strong track record of tackling those who have evaded their responsibilities or those who have facilitated tax evasion. Since 2010, we have secured over £2.9bn from those trying to hide money offshore to avoid paying taxes.

“The large revenue increase from 2016/17 to 2017/18 was due to the fact that the Fraud Investigation Service (FIS), of which OCW is one group, was set up in 2016 to ensure no one was beyond our reach and to tackle the most serious and harmful frauds.

“As FIS has developed, we have been successful in increasingly working more complex and higher value cases. This work is ongoing.”

Complex cases

The FOI request also revealed that the taxman undertook 827 investigations in 2018-19 alone, compared to 839 in 2017-18 and 842 in 2016-17.

However, HMRC’s spokesperson clarified that, while there has been a significant increase in the amount of tax recovered, the figures should not be compared.

This is because there are several factors at play that affect the yearly number of investigations, including the complexity of the individual tax cases.

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