12/02/2009 14,000 tax avoidance schemes and counting…

12/02/2009 14,000 tax avoidance schemes and counting…

At the last count, since rules requiring the disclosure of tax avoidance arrangements to HMRC were introduced in 2004 there had been around 14,000 such schemes.

Or so we thought. Now it seems these might be far from the limit of the problem, as many “promoters” of schemes, such as accountants, lawyers and specialist “boutique” tax avoidance firms, are refusing to play the game.

A parliamentary answer obtained by Austin Mitchell MP, who has also tabled an early-day motion urging action on tax avoidance, reveals that no fewer than 90 promoters are under investigation for failing to disclose schemes. Presumably they were either hoping they wouldn’t be picked up or think they have found a loophole in the rules.

As promoters tend not to limit themselves to the odd scheme or two, the number of undeclared wheezes could be significant, especially if some of the bigger promoters think they have successfully found ways around disclosure. And that’s without considering any that are still beavering away unnoticed.

Ninety promoters not disclosing schemes is alarming, even with the reassurance that HMRC is onto them. At the very least it shows that, valuable as disclosure rules are, they are no guarantee of authorities getting on top of tax avoidance.

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