A settlement opportunity for employers who have used Employee Benefit Trusts (EBT) to avoid tax will close in March 2015, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have announced.
The initiative, which launched in April 2011, has raised £800 million in tax and National Insurance Contributions from around 700 employers who previously used the trusts as tax avoidance vehicles.
HMRC expects others to settle in the near future and will pursue those who don’t do so through the courts as it does not believe that schemes using EBTs to avoid paying Income Tax and National Insurance work.
Some individuals seeking to use EBTs to avoid tax have tried to use the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF) – under which individuals with undeclared offshore assets can regularise their tax affairs – to find another route to pay less tax. HMRC and the Liechtenstein government have made changes to the LDF which, among other things, mean that users of EBTs that are caught by the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Scheme (DOTAS) rules cannot take advantage of the full terms of the facility. They should engage in the EBT settlement opportunity instead, while it is still available.
Jennie Granger, HMRC’s Director General of Enforcement and Compliance, said: “Time is running out for anyone who used an EBT to avoid paying tax and still hasn’t settled with HMRC through the settlement opportunity.
“EBTs are avoidance vehicles and we will continue to pursue those who do not pay up. I would encourage all employers who have used these schemes to take this opportunity to settle under these clear terms. They can hold out and litigate, but they may well end up paying more tax, as well as big legal fees. They are also up against HMRC’s strong litigation record – we win around 80% of avoidance cases heard in the courts.
“This settlement opportunity is just one of a host of ways HMRC is tackling avoidance, not least Accelerated Payments which mean that many people who have avoided tax will now have to pay up quicker than ever before. This puts them on a level pegging with the vast majority of people who have nothing to do with tax avoidance and pay their tax up front.”