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‘Affluent’ unit targets overseas property owners

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A 200-strong team of investigators and specialists is targeting ‘wealthy tax cheats’ who own property abroad, HMRC said. Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced the creation of the ‘affluent’ unit at the recent Liberal Democrat conference.

Experts redeployed from across the department will use ‘new and innovative risk assessment techniques’ to detect avoidance and evasion by 50% taxpayers other than those already handled by the High Net Worth Unit.

‘One of the first groups being targeted is wealthy individuals who own land and property abroad,’ HMRC said.

‘Sophisticated data mining techniques have been applied to publicly available information to identify individuals who own property abroad. HMRC risk assessment tools are then being used to highlight those people who do not appear able legitimately to afford the property, as well as those who do not appear to be declaring the correct income and gains from the property.

‘Other work currently planned involves commodity traders and people holding offshore accounts. Much of this work will be undertaken in co-ordination with other teams from across HMRC, including those who deal with corporate entities, residence and domicile issues, and trusts and estates.’

The High Net Worth Unit, created in 2009, deals with about 5,000 individuals, ‘typically’ those with assets of at least £20m.