£154m blitz on tax avoidance starts

George OsborneOlivia Harris/PA Wire

The Chancellor will unveil a £154 million blitz on tax avoidance and evasion amid mounting fury over the tax affairs of big name global companies and wealthy individuals.

George Osborne will order Revenue officials to use the cash to draft in an army of investigators to target high earners who aggressively avoid or evade paying tax.
The money will also fund extra staff to speed up work challenging multinationals' transfer pricing arrangements to stop global companies using legal loopholes to shift profits out of the UK.

A new "centre of excellence" will be created within HMRC to focus expertise on tackling offshore evasion and avoidance.

The HM Revenue and Customs' funding, spread over two years, is expected to reap an extra £2bn annually in unpaid tax for the Treasury. It is part of a £10bn clampdown on tax dodging set to be unveiled in Wednesday's Autumn Statement, which is also expected to confirm that a general anti-abuse rule will come into force next year.

The move follows condemnation of big-name firms such as Starbucks, Google and Amazon for paying little or no corporation tax in the UK and a string of celebrities who were revealed to use aggressive tax avoidance schemes. Coffee chain Starbucks, which has been hit by a customer boycott, said it was looking at its "tax approach" in Britain.

The US coffee firm - valued at £25 billion - has generated more than £3 billion of sales in the UK since 1998 but it emerged in October it has paid less than 1% in corporation tax.

Mr Osborne said: "The Government is clear that while most taxpayers are doing their bit to help us balance the books, it is unacceptable for a minority to avoid paying their fair share, sometimes by breaking the law. We are determined to tackle this problem and HMRC are making good progress, but we are giving them additional tools to bring in more."

The Chancellor is also poised to confirm a deal with Switzerland that will raise more than £5bn in previously uncollected taxes from Swiss bank accounts over the next six years.

Treasury officials are working on plans to replicate an information exchange agreement between Britain and the United States with other countries to stop international borders being exploited to avoid tax. Plans are also being drawn up to put reform of international rules around corporation tax at the top of the agenda during Britain's chairmanship of the G7/8 next year.

© 2012 Press Association
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