Much Ado about (in relative terms) nothing
HMRC have just released a statement on the Lagarde list, stolen from HSBC Switzerland by Hervė Falciani now 'tax' adviser to left wing radical Podemos party in Spain. What a computer operator knows about international tax is anybody's guess but the statement makes interesting reading.9 February 2015
"We have systematically worked through all the Lagarde data. As a result tax, interest and penalties have now been paid by those who hid their assets in Switzerland to get out of paying tax. The decision to prosecute is made by the Crown Prosecution Service based on the facts."
"The Lagarde list [of alleged tax evaders] was used by HMRC for the express purpose for which it was provided — to assess, collect, enforce and prosecute tax offences."
“We have brought in more than £135m as a result of this work and the government has increased the maximum penalty for hiding money in tax havens to 200 per cent of the tax evaded."
“We use information provided by whistleblowers as part of our commitment to tackle offshore tax evasion. To date our agreements with Switzerland and Liechtenstein alone have brought in around £2bn in previously unpaid tax.”
All forms of tax evasion should be tackled vigorously, and in this particular case HMRC have investigated the records and a sum total of £135m in back taxes is expected to be recovered, but with a £1.2 trn UK national debt, and a whopping £75bn annual deficit this is a drop in the ocean, and certainly not deserving of the current weight of media attention.
Could there be an election in the offing?
* This Blog title is an adaptation of Shakespeares's famous play title which Wikipedia explains as: By means of "noting" (which, in Shakespeare's day, sounded the same as "nothing," and which is gossip, rumour, and overhearing), but has been misrepresented as an implicit endorsement of tax evasion. It is not and edits have been added to make this clear.