From out of the blue in April 2016 came news that details that some 11.5 million emails and other pieces of data had been passed to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Whilst the early press headlines understandably focussed on Heads of State, Celebrities, Politicians and headline-grabbing stories such as global money laundering and the like, the real effects are that Tax Authorities on a global level, including HMRC here in the UK, are quietly sifting though the data to look for unpaid taxes and who should be paying them.
Lost in the melee of sensationalist headlines was HMRC’s own statement that it was obtaining and reviewing the data to identify any UK-based tax problems that HMRC should pursue – see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hmrcs-response-to-the-icij-story-on-offshore-tax-evasion for HMRC’s statement in full.
In an obvious development, whilst the Panama revelations relate only to one law firm, it would be expected that worldwide tax authorities will use the detail now obtained to put pressure on Panama to open its books into other similar businesses in the country who may well also have similar tax-related matters. This happened with both Liechtenstein and Switzerland previously and the expectation must be that something similar could happen in Panama.
So, if you are affected by tax issues within Panama, what are your options?
The obvious and recommended approach is to seek very early professional advice now.
The press and political response to the subject means that we would expect HMRC will come under intense pressure to take decisive and forceful action against those with offshore, especially, Panama located tax problems.
In those circumstances, we advocate early dialogue with HMRC aimed at securing a client's position with a view to agreed resolution with HMRC.
With the demise of the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility and developments around making it easier to criminally prosecute those with tax irregularities relating to offshore jurisdictions, the need to move early is paramount.
The HMRC-sanctioned and encouraged Contractual Disclosure Facility, with its in-built immunity from criminal investigation, offers by far the most secure process for remedying any offshore tax irregularities, particularly at a time when criminal investigation for such tax failures is easier for HMRC.
If you feel you might have a tax problem connected with any offshore location, particularly Panama now that HMRC are looking at the information they have, then you must take early advice about the risks and routes to resolution.
We offer an independent and non-judgemental approach to such matters.
Having won industry-wide awards for our approach to investigations and the ways in which we handle cases under the Contractual Disclosure Facility we are ideally placed to offer discreet and valued advice.
Contact us now free on 0800 001 6686 to discuss the matter. Out of hours, please feel free to contact Gary on 07985 768888 and he can also be emailed directly at [email protected]
Gary Brothers and Mike Leigh are regular contributors to a number of professional forums. The current blogs are here, and our archived blogs can be found by checking on the link below.