The UK/Swiss Agreement Regarding Swiss Bank Accounts – What do we Know?

George Osborne has announced an historic deal between the UK and Swiss Governments which will have a significant impact upon you if you have a Swiss Bank Account.

A deal between the UK and Swiss governments was ratified in principal on 24 August 2011 which will impose a significant one-off charge on money invested in Swiss Bank accounts by UK citizens, followed by an annual withholding tax.

Full details of the mechanism are yet to be announced, but it is our understanding that in 2013, accounts in Swiss banks held by UK citizens will suffer a one-off charge of between 19 and 34% of the principal sum, depending how long the account has been in existence, to cover all past tax liabilities.

We understand that this one-off charge would still not prevent HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) from investigating the UK citizen should it subsequently become aware of the Swiss Bank Account and there were unpaid UK tax liabilities relating to either the source of the money in the account or income arising from the account. HMRC would still be able to go back up to twenty years in the past to investigate and recover any unpaid tax, and there remains the possibility of prosecution for tax offences.

Additionally, subsequent to the one-off charge, from 2013 onwards there will be an ongoing annual withholding tax on investment income and gains arising in connection with a Swiss bank account of between 27% and 48%, depending upon the nature of the income arising. We understand that the likely rates are 27% on capital gains, 40% on dividends and 48% on interest.

UK citizens will only be able to avoid these charges by making a full disclosure of their Swiss investments to HMRC.

The tax deducted as a result of this agreement will be paid over to the UK Treasury by the Swiss without disclosing details of the account holders, and so anonymity is preserved, but at a financial significant cost. However, the agreement also permits HMRC to request details from the Swiss of up to 500 UK citizens a year who it suspects of tax evasion, so should a UK citizen try to remain anonymous there is a likelihood of eventual discovery by HMRC and subsequent investigation and possible prosecution.

What Happens Next?

The agreement was ratified in principal on 24 August 2011 by Dave Hartnett (HMRC’s Permanent Secretary) and Michael Ambuehl (Swiss State Secretary). We understand that the agreement will now pass through Parliament later this year before being signed.

As we become aware of further details we will announce them via our website.

I have a Swiss Bank Account – What Should I do?

Whilst the full details of the finalised agreement are not yet known, it is vital to take stock now and consider how best to proceed.

If you have a Swiss bank account that HMRC are unaware of, or that is linked to any potential tax irregularities, it is still possible to make a disclosure to HMRC before the agreement comes into force and to ensure maximum tax efficiency for the future. It is important however to seek suitably qualified professional advice before acting as an incorrect decision or failure to act can result in at best a costly tax investigation or at worst a prison sentence.

How can Mazars Help?

There remain opportunities to take advantage of disclosure facilities being offered by HMRC that can minimise the final tax liability and also protect from any possibility of prosecution, and here at Mazars we have an expert team of tax professionals skilled in this area with many years of experience both within the tax advisory field and as Tax Inspectors within HMRC. We have an excellent and proven track record of success in achieving positive outcomes for clients facing difficult tax issues and are well placed to advise on achieving the best possible result for you.

For an initial, confidential, no-obligation consultation please contact one of our team: -

Jon Claypole – Partner – Tel: 07799 033089

Gary Brothers – Director – Tel: 07794 031487

Stephen Outhwaite – Senior Manager – Tel: 07794 031401