Advisers who “facilitate or encourage” tax evasion by companies or individuals should be prosecuted, according to chief secretary to UK Treasury Danny Alexander
In a television interview, Alexander proposed a new criminal offence of “corporate failure to prevent economic crime”, aimed particularly at banks and accountancy firms that promoted illegal tax evasion. Those guilty of the offence should face the same financial penalty as the taxpayer, he said and the proposed financial penalties would create a “very tough disincentive” to firms.
Alexander, who is a member of the Liberal Democrats – the junior partner in the UK’s coalition government – added that he hoped to act on the plans before of the general election in May, but that they would otherwise be included in his party’s manifesto.
“I am going to seek to pursue this within government over the next few weeks, because I think we do have time, potentially, in the budget or through other processes that we are going through, to take these ideas forward,” he said.
“Organisations, be they accountants, banks or whatever, who help people evade tax will be liable for this new offence and crucially liable for financial penalties. So that, for example, if their customers have to pay back hundreds of millions of pounds in tax, then those organisations should have to match that with hundreds of millions of pounds of their own money.”
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