Paul Harrison, Tax Partner and Head of Tax Investigations at KPMG in the UK comments on the agreement between the UK and Swiss tax authorities: “This is a very significant move and follows a similar deal announced between Switzerland and Germany recently. It is yet more evidence of a new era of co-operation between tax authorities. At a time when public finances are under great pressure, HMRC is determined to collect the billions it believes it is owed from hidden Swiss assets. It seems there is a stark choice for those who have abused Swiss banking secrecy – come forward and disclose, or run the risk of losing over a third of your historic Swiss assets."
“The watchwords on this deal are fairness and pragmatism: fraudulent tax evasion needs to be stamped out because it’s not fair on everyone else. And it’s important that people who have deliberately underpaid their taxes are not seen to be benefitting from their wrongdoings. But the authorities need to take care that the innocent and the confused do not get caught up in this. There will be people who simply don’t know whether they have a problem and they will need help to sort their affairs out. In order for this deal to work, the banks, the tax authorities and tax advisors are all likely to have a role. And while the UK / Swiss deal announced is a one-off opportunity to clear historic tax issues, it’s not the only route to come clean. There is also the 'Liechtenstein disclosure facility’ which may, under some circumstances, be more appropriate for some people. Those affected will need to review their affairs carefully to decide how to proceed."
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KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, is a subsidiary of KPMG Europe LLP and operates from 22 offices across the UK with nearly 11,000 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a turnover of £1.6 billion in the year ended September 2010. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. We operate in 150 countries and have more than 138,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. KPMG International provides no client services.
This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK.