We live in interesting times as far as HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”) disclosure facilities are concerned!

Historically, since the late 2000’s, we have had a succession of disclosure facilities made available by HMRC, to offer a “light touch” route with which to make disclosure of tax irregularities to HMRC in return for more favourable treatment than would generally be on offer. In chronological order we had the Offshore Disclosure Facility (or “ODF”), the New Disclosure Opportunity (or “NDO”), the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (the “LDF”) and the Crown Dependencies Disclosure Facilities (or “CDF”). Each of these was supposedly the “last chance” to submit disclosures to HMRC before they got tough! And each was then superseded by another opportunity.

The ODF and NDO ceased several years ago. The LDF and CDF were supposed to run into 2016, but were closed unexpectedly early with effect from 31 December 2015 to tie in with what the Chancellor announced would be one “final, final” disclosure opportunity originally due to start in January 2016 to tie in with the introduction of much greater exchange of financial information between jurisdictions following the introduction of the Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”).

In a move that has both practitioners and HMRC scratching their heads, the introduction of the new CRS-related disclosure facility has been delayed and delayed and we are still no nearer its introduction. We await further news with interest!

We practitioners are advocates of disclosure facilities as they offer great opportunities to clients with issues to disclosure to HMRC to do so in a safe environment. For example, in the LDF, in return for a full disclosure, clients were offered certainty as to a favourable penalty loading, a restricted “look back” period for tax irregularities, a dedicated single point of contact within HMRC and – most importantly – immunity from prosecution provided certain criteria were met. Whilst the Chancellor has stated that the new facility will be on less generous terms, there are likely to be similar inducements.

In the meantime, during this period of uncertainty, there are still routes in to HMRC if there are issues to disclose, and if you have any such issues that are troubling either your clients or yourself please do contact Steve for a no-obligation discussion. Steve can be reached on 07949 929663 or by email on stephen@outhwaite-associates.co.uk