* HMRC scrutiny of offshore accounts intensifies
* U.S. to probe at least one bank this summer
* UK govt allocates more money to catch tax evaders
By Chris Vellacott and Kevin Drawbaugh
LONDON/WASHINGTON, June 9 Tax authorities have
been stepping up pressure on the offshore banking industry, with
the United States promising a summer crackdown and Britain
pursuing thousands of people with money in Swiss accounts.
At a conference in Washington organised by the Organisation
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) this week, a
senior U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) figure said the
authority was about to probe at least one bank.
Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement Steven
Miller said it planned to move against "one or more banks in the
next month or so".
Alongside the warning, the IRS is also encouraging voluntary
disclosure whereby evaders come clean in return for lighter
"The IRS seems to be following the age-old adage that one
can go further with a kind word and a stick than just a kind
word by seemingly looking to strike a balance between increased
enforcement actions against banks suspected of encouraging
non-compliance ... and taxpayer-friendly improvements to its
voluntary disclosure program," said Jay Krause, a partner at law
Meanwhile, a source close to British tax authority the HMRC
said it was aware of approximately 500,000 offshore account
Among these, it has details of 7,000 HSBC (HSBA.L) customers
with Swiss accounts, holding assets of approximately 7 billion
pounds, the source said.
A significant proportion of these are suspected of tax
evasion and will receive letters warning they are under
investigation. The source said around 500 people are being
investigated and this would increase to "thousands".
British Treasury Minister David Gauke said in a statement
emailed via the HMRC that the government had made 917 million
pounds ($1.5 billion) available to tax authorities "to tackle
The HMRC's information was handed to it by another tax
authority, the source said.
However, the original source of the data is a former
employee at HSBC's Swiss unit, who stole details on thousands of
Swiss client accounts which have since found their way into the
hands of tax authorities around Europe.
The HMRC started scrutinising its share of the haul last
year, sending letters to hundreds of people suspected of hiding
money offshore in September. [ID:nLDE68Q1GR]
A spokeswoman at HSBC said: "We don't condone or assist tax
British taxpayers who have fallen under the scrutiny of tax
authorities receive a document known as Code of Practice 9 which
says the HMRC suspects "irregularities" in the recipients' tax
affairs and encourages them to appoint a professional adviser.
People found to have hidden assets from the British taxman
offshore could face a maximum penalty of 200 percent of the tax
due, according to the HMRC.
The international crackdown on offshore banking has reshaped
the international banking industry as cash-strapped western
governments run out of patience with tax evaders after the
The impact has been felt most acutely in Switzerland, home
to the world's biggest concentration of offshore wealth and some
of the world's biggest private banks, including Credit Suisse
CSGN.VX and UBS UBSN.VX.
A report last month from the Boston Consulting Group said
wealthy U.S. individuals had pulled most of their money from
Swiss private banks since 2006 in the wake of the crackdown.
(Editing by Sinead Cruise and Will Waterman)