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HMRC defends Swiss tax disclosures

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HMRC has defended its record in recovering tax on undeclared Swiss bank accounts through the tax agreement with Switzerland, which came into force in January 2013. The agreement was signed in 2011, following information leaked by a Swiss bank employee on hidden accounts (the ‘Lagarde list’). New revelations about the extent to which tax evasion has been facilitated by certain banks has led to criticism of HMRC’s failure to prosecute more cases.

In a statement, HMRC said: ‘We have systematically worked through all the Lagarde data. As a result, tax, interest and penalties have now been paid by those who hid their assets in Switzerland to get out of paying tax. The decision to prosecute is made by the Crown Prosecution Service based on the facts.

‘The Lagarde list was used by HMRC for the express purpose for which it was provided: to assess, collect, enforce and prosecute tax offences. We have brought in more than £135m as a result of this work and the government has increased the maximum penalty for hiding money in tax havens to 200% of the tax evaded. Over 90 countries have committed to new international common reporting standards, further shutting down the options for tax cheats who pursue this increasingly high risk practice.

‘We use information provided by whistleblowers as part of our commitment to tackle offshore tax evasion. To date, our agreements with Switzerland and Liechtenstein alone have brought in around £2bn in previously unpaid tax.’