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Government targets ‘cowboy advisers’ selling tax avoidance schemes

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The government is consulting on tougher rules on disclosure of the tax avoidance schemes (DOTAS), to enable HMRC to ‘take action against cowboy advisers and to close the net around the few schemes not already captured’.

Writing in The Times today, Exchequer Secretary David Gauke said much of the focus of the debate in recent weeks had ‘rightly’ been on individual users of avoidance schemes.
‘But another problem is “cowboy advisers”, who sell the schemes and spend their time devising new ways of getting round the rules to divert money from the exchequer and into their own and their clients’ pockets,’ he wrote.
There must be a distinction between ordinary tax planning and aggressive tax avoidance, Gauke said. ‘Legitimate use of reliefs, for example taking out a tax-free ISA, is not tax avoidance. Buying a house for personal use through a company to avoid stamp duty, on the other hand, clearly is. Morally repugnant practices such as this are where the government is cracking down.’
The government announced at Budget 2012 that it would consult in the summer on proposals to extend the DOTAS ‘hallmarks’ – descriptions of schemes required to be disclosed – to capture schemes ‘not currently notifiable’.
Gauke noted today that ‘over the past month, and in no small part thanks to investigative journalism by [The Times], tax avoidance has been the subject of more than usually high levels of public scrutiny and debate’. But tax systems were complex, he said, and what was acceptable might not always by clear.
HMRC’s anti-avoidance division had ‘moved swiftly’ to advise ministers to change the law to close seven avoidance schemes in the past year.
This news story was first published on 23 July 2012