This is the latest targeted campaign aimed at individuals who have offshore assets even though there may be honest legitimate reasons for them to have one.
Not only that, but in a letter which has no doubt been sent out to hundreds of recipients, they are asked to sign a certificate if they believe their affairs to be up-to-date.
But this is not a statutory requirement. Some taxpayers may unknowingly sign the certificate which could be used by HMRC in the future to potentially charge higher penalties if inaccuracies are later discovered (even if innocent).
This is the third time that HMRC have targeted individuals who have offshore assets. They have been receiving data on offshore accounts of UK individuals under the Common Reporting Standard.
The move suggests HMRC is getting back to ‘business as usual’, after the initial disruption of COVID-19 and HMRC resource having to be pulled into administering the various temporary Government schemes, like the Job Retention Scheme.
The move also signals HMRC’s continuing priority to tackle tax evasion by individuals related to offshore assets. There are often very good reasons as to why an individual has an offshore account – this could be someone having a holiday home abroad, family members living overseas or having investments in another country.
The latest batch of HMRC letters are really no different in their tone or approach to previous versions, and it’s disappointing that HMRC cannot present the information they hold so that individuals are able to cross-check against their own records.
Not only would it save HMRC a lot of time and effort, it would also be easier and a lot less stressful for those that do hold legitimate offshore assets and feel stigmatised by this sort of approach.