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Eversheds comment: Tax authorities must look beyond whistleblowers to pierce veil of secrecy over offshore structures

  • United Kingdom

    04-04-2016

    Commenting on publication of the so-called Panama Papers, Ben Jones, partner and tax expert at Eversheds, says:

    “It has historically been very difficult for tax authorities to identify and trace tax evasion through offshore holding structures. For many legitimate reasons, offshore jurisdictions often promote themselves on the strength of their secrecy and privacy protections. However, these protections can and have been abused.

    "Of late, whistleblowers have provided a significant new weapon for the armoury of tax authorities across the world. For example, leaked information has recently been key to breaking the barrier of secrecy and tackling tax evasion through Swiss bank accounts, with the US using leaked information to pursue indictments and a disclosure program and the UK using leaked information as the basis for a cooperation agreement and tax withholding charges. However, whistleblowing is not a reliable source of information on its own and so tax authorities around the world will need to continue to look for new ways, such as beneficial ownership registers, to pierce the veil of secrecy created through offshore structures.”

     

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