HMRC has published a consultation document entitled: Strengthening sanctions for tax avoidance – A consultation on detailed proposals. It was released 22 July 2015 and the closing date for comments is 14 October 2015. Legislation to enact the issues discussed will be introduced in the Finance Bill 2016.
The scope of the consultation covers:
“This consultation builds on the responses to the earlier consultation. It details proposals on how each of the measures would work and asks for comments on those details.
For serial avoiders, this detail includes how the regime should be structured and what the entry criteria should be; what extra reporting requirements should apply to serial avoiders; how a surcharge might work; restricting access to certain reliefs; and when it would be appropriate to name the most persistent serial avoiders.
For the GAAR Penalty, this detail includes the circumstances in which a penalty will be charged; the penalty rate chargeable; and safeguards to ensure proportionality. The consultation also sets out some further areas for consideration under the GAAR.
For Promoters of Tax Avoidance Schemes, this detail includes the new threshold criteria definitions, including the number of schemes to be considered over a specified period of time.”
Firms that are active in the promotion of tax schemes would be advised to read the consultation as HMRC is evidently set on turning the screw. The tactics to discourage participation in schemes are familiar enough: naming and shaming, significant penalties.
In this consultation HMRC have suggested that the onus of proof, that reasonable care has been taken before lodging an appeal against a penalty for an inaccurate return, will be on the avoider to demonstrate rather than HMRC to prove.
Does this not mean that HMRC are admitting to circumstances where a tax payer will be judged to be guilty unless they can prove their innocence?
The consultation paper can be downloaded at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/447320/Strengthening_Sanctions_for_Tax_Avoidance_-_A_Consultation_on_Detailed_Proposals.pdf