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HMRC targets tax evasion by offshore account holders

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs have launched a campaign aimed at those who evade paying UK tax by keeping their money in offshore accounts, reports the BBC.

The campaign is designed to highlight the fact that the Government and HMRC are looking to target those who hide money abroad, something that the chancellor George Osborne described as 'unfair'.

The law on tax evasion means that those who are caught illegally evading tax could face the possibility of going to prison, as well as being issued with a fine of up to 200% of the tax owed.

The main target of the campaign is undeclared offshore earnings. Jennie Granger is the director general for enforcement and compliance.

"The days of hiding money in another country to cheat the UK are coming to an end," she told the BBC.

The announcement of the campaign came as the G20 group of leaders of the world's biggest economies met in Australia to discuss moves to come together to tackle hidden assets and tax evasion, including profit shifting by companies to avoid paying tax.

The Government believes that UK individuals may have a significant amount of money stashed in offshore tax havens, and Osborne believes that the UK Government could generate significant sums of money by targeting undeclared offshore accounts.

Tax evasion is different from tax avoidance, in that evasion is illegal and can result in prison sentences and hefty fines. Tax avoidance is the avoidance of paying tax by legal methods, but has also been widely criticised during the credit crunch and subsequent recession.

Mr Osborne had a simple message at the launch of the new campaign: "We are coming after them," he said.