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More Penalties to Come to British Citizens Who Evade Taxes

The British government unveiled its new plan to crackdown on people who have been evading taxes by imposing larger penalties and criminally prosecuting more frequently. Under current regulations prosecutors must prove that an accused is using an offshore account with the intention of evading taxes. Officials are encouraging the passing of a new standard that would allow prosecutors to pursue someone just because they have the money in an offshore account and they haven't confirmed the payment of taxes on it.

Chancellor George Osborne commented on the changes saying tax evaders will have "no safe haven". Osborne says the British government will be dealing out harsher penalties meaning increased fines and more time spent behind bars.

"We've already done a lot to crackdown on those who don't pay their taxes, now we're introducing a new criminal offense for people who hide their money offshore... And the message is very simple - if you're hiding your money offshore, we are coming to get you and the criminal law is going to come and find you," commented Osborne about the new plan.

As well as increasing possible penalties against tax evaders, the British government intends to increase rewards for any whistleblowers that assist prosecutors in the crackdown.

The government plans to gauge public opinion in a hearing. Not everyone believes this plan will be as great as Osborne claims it will be. Head of tax at Deloitte, Bill Dodwell, told New York Times recently that these new policies will be "horrifying".

"People should not be put in prison unless you can prove intent...I'm shocked to find that an offense which could lead to a prison sentence could be decided on a strict liability basis...if this change applies to all evasion cases I think that's unacceptable."

Source: "Offshore tax evasion: Osborne sets out new penalties," BBC News, April 12, 2014.

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