Historic deal renews spotlight on tax affairs say local chartered accountants

THIS month has seen the signing of an historic deal between the UK and Switzerland which could capture up to £5 billion in tax for Her Majesty’s Treasury which, according to the Peterborough partners of chartered accountants, Saffery Champness renews the spotlight on arrangements for top-rate tax payers.

The proposed deal – which was announced in August – was signed a fortnight ago and after ratification by both governments will come in to force in January 2013.

Yet, says Stephen Collins a partner in Saffery Champness office in Peterborough, it appears that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have already begun to act.

He says: “While the HMRC declared that it would not ‘actively seek to acquire date stolen from Swiss banks’, a press notice issued last Thursday (13 October) confirms that it is targeting 6,000 Swiss bank accounts acting on information it received last year. To date, the HMRC states that it has begun investigations in to more than 500 of these accounts which are held by a Geneva-based bank.”

While acknowledging that the landmark agreement between the UK and Swiss governments will only affect a very small minority of taxpayers with potential for tax liability in the UK, Stephen Collins does say that the deal and the speed with which HMRC has acted represent a renewed focus on the propriety of tax affairs of those with significant wealth.

Stephen concludes, “This international agreement, as well as the national context of the ongoing political debate about the 50 per cent top-rate tax, means that clarity on tax liabilities is more sought-after than ever by individuals and companies alike.”