Monday, December 29, 2008

Most tax avoidance schemes are blocked or don't work

This assertion seems to have received precious little publicity in 2008. According to the then Acting Chairman of HMRC, Dave Hartnett:
"the overwhelming majority of schemes that have been flushed out through the disclosure rules have either been addressed by legislation, or are being addressed in litigation because we do not believe they work; or, as a precautionary measure, both litigation and legislation."
This was among his oral statements to the Public Accounts Committee on Monday 28 January 2008. It was in response to Q106 from Angela Browning:
Can I put to you a very blunt question? Of the schemes that you have identified on which the Government has then legislated to close the loophole—have they responded 100% to your list of loopholes you have identified, or are there outstanding ones you would like them to close; and, if so, how big is that list?
So 'the overwhelming majority of schemes' have either been blocked or are being challenged. Or, dare I add, WILL be challenged. It never ceases to amaze me how often the promoters of tax schemes seek to legitimise their efforts by claiming that the scheme has been 'registered' with HMRC and that it must work as HMRC has not blocked or challenged it.

As I pointed out to one naive adviser recently - the scheme he was planning to promote as 'safe from HMRC attack' had YET to be challenged by HMRC and that they had plenty of time in which to do this. It's for reasons like this that I have suggested previously on this blog: Beware of tax schemes you don't understand.

Transactions undertaken from 6 April 2007 to 5 April 2008 will be reported on tax returns that need to be filed (online) by 31 January 2009. HMRC then have 12 months (potentially until 31 January 2010) to start asking questions. The absence of questions, let alone of challenges, as of the end of 2008 is no great achievement on the part of the promoters of the scheme. And you can add another year to the respective deadlines for transactions undertaken after 5 April 2008.

Have any readers of this blog come across other similarly misleading promotional claims by promoters of tax avoidance schemes?


  1. and remember once you pay your money to the offshore avoidance expert he will get 3 years fees before HMRC even start doing anything

  2. OK and by the way watch out for the tax pedlar who just before 3 years passes moves on to other schemes having got 3 years fees before hMRC does anything at all