LONDON – British authorities would get the right to name and shame tax advisers who deliberately steer their clients into tax avoidance schemes that are likely to break the law, under a government proposal announced on Monday.
The proposal is part of a wider effort to discourage companies and individuals from using complex schemes - some of which drift over into illegality - to reduce their tax payments, after several multinational firms were shown to be paying little or no taxes in Britain.
"The vast majority of tax advisers are not high-risk and have moved away from selling aggressive avoidance schemes but there is still a minority that persists in promoting these schemes," Treasury Minister David Gauke said in a statement.
Tax avoidance schemes seek legal ways to reduce tax bills for companies or wealthy individuals. But some which take advantage of complex ownership structures, often involving overseas tax havens, are illegal.
The new policy would empower Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to name the so-called high risk tax advisers it considers to be promoting schemes which are deliberately opaque and likely to be hiding illegal activity.
"This (policy) consultation will allow HMRC to further close in on the 'cowboy' advisers promoting these high-risk schemes," Gauke said.
While Britain has pushed for more international transparency on tax havens, it has faced criticism from campaigners because many of the most popular havens are British overseas territories or dependencies.
(Reporting by William James; editing by Andrew Osborn and Robin Pomeroy)