UK to ramp up fight against offshore tax evasion

Sat Apr 12, 2014 5:34am EDT

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* Plans tougher rules on cash hidden by individuals

* Will propose penalty of up to 200 pct of tax owed

* Part of govt drive to bring down budget deficit

LONDON, April 12 (Reuters) - Britain plans to toughen its rules on cash hidden offshore in a new bid to crack down on people evading tax, the government said on Saturday.

Under a proposed new criminal offence, tax officials will only have to show that income on money held by individuals outside Britain is taxable and undeclared in order to secure a prosecution.

Currently, British tax officials have to prove that an individual was deliberately trying to hide undeclared income from the authorities.

"The message is clear with this new criminal offence: if you are evading tax, there is no safe haven and we will find you," finance minister George Osborne said in a statement.

He has been closing loopholes used by individuals and corporations to avoid paying tax as he tries to eliminate Britain's wide budget deficit. The government has pushed for new international information-sharing agreements to make it easier to crack down on tax evasion.

Britain will start a consultation period on the proposed new criminal offence in the coming days. It will propose toughening up existing penalties for offshore tax evasion of up to 200 percent of the tax owed.

The government recovered 1.5 billion pounds ($2.51 billion)from offshore tax avoiders over the last two years.

($1 = 0.5980 British pounds) (Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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