Britons owning properties overseas are urged to inform HMRC if no disclosure has been made already. Tax specialist Peter Howarth is warning advisers to notify their foreign property owning clients of a new investigation team established by HMRC to track down people who own land and property abroad by ‘data mining' publicly available records.
Howarth, a tax consultant with Afimar Accountants in Fuengirola and a former Inland Revenue inspector, says this latest development is one of a number of trends conspiring to catch out those who have undisclosed assets.
“At one time it would be easy to buy a home overseas and no-one would be any the wiser,” he explains. “Nowadays there is increasing transparency as land registry records and other public information is readily available on the internet.
“At the same time we are seeing greater international collaboration between tax authorities. The treaties in place between the UK and most other European countries mean that HMRC can follow up lines of enquiry through its counterparts overseas.”
Howarth further warns that under the terms of a European treaty, tax due in the UK can now be collected in other countries. Taking Spain as an example, Howarth confirms that the authorities have the right to empty a person’s Spanish bank account without a court order and may even seize property.
Howarth projects that long-term trends suggests it will be increasingly difficult to hide overseas assets. “People who have property they haven’t disclosed should consider putting their affairs in order now. If people do come forward, HMRC is likely to accept their disclosure without further investigation. It’s better to resolve the position now and retain some degree of control than wait to be found out further down the line and face a much tougher penalty.”
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