Tax collectors from around the world have renewed their efforts
to combat tax evasion following revelations that Liechtenstein bank
accounts were being used for evasion purposes. Administrators in
countries including Germany, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New
Zealand, Sweden, the UK and the US are sharing information and
launching probes to crack down on tax cheats.

German authorities began an aggressive probe into potential tax
evasion in February. Prosecutors revealed that over 160 German
residents admitted tax evasion and had agreed to contribute at
least €55 million ($82 million) in unpaid taxes to avoid tax bills
and fines.

The probe has stirred debate within and outside the profession as
it emerged Germany’s national intelligence agency,
Bundesnachrichtendienst, paid a former employee of Liechtenstein’s
LGT bank millions of euros for account information. TA
understands that LGT and Swiss bank Vontobel are among the
financial institutions being investigated by tax inspectors.

The UK’s HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) opened enquiries into UK
residents who have Liechtenstein accounts and also paid £100,000
($200,000) for information on Britons’ bank accounts in the tax

HMRC acting chairman Dave Hartnett said there needs to be a move
towards full implementation of Organisation for Economic
Co-operation Development standards on transparency and effective
cross-border exchange of information on tax matters.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants head of tax,
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, told TA what makes this situation
unique is the method used to gather information. “Where people are
tax evading that is absolutely fine, let tax authorities go after
them. I think it’s a different issue whether it is right or wrong
for tax authorities to pay, but why not,” Roy-Chowdhury said.

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He added that it is important tax collectors don’t go after people
who use tax havens for legal purposes, such as confidentiality of
their financial affairs:

“The key point to bring out though is that where individuals are
paying tax, the tax they should be paying, and they are using tax
havens because they don’t want people to know about their wealth
that is perfectly legitimate. It’s up to them where they keep their
money and if they want it within a secret jurisdiction… that is
perfectly alright,” Roy-Chowdhury said.

The probe recently spread to Australia and the US, where
authorities are investigating several suspect accounts.