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HMRC issues warning to taxpayers, following Euro Pacific Bank probe

Posted on 4 July 2022

On 30 June 2022, it was announced that the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF) of Puerto Rico issued a cease-and-desist order against Euro Pacific Bank, following the result of a two year investigation. The Puerto Rican Financial Sector Regulator announced the de-registration of Euro Pacific Bank, taking prompt action in order to prevent the Bank from carrying out any other business.

This announcement comes as a result of a two year investigation undertaken by the J5 (the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement, an international group of tax authorities), which investigated into activities which allowed the Bank to serve as a vehicle of suspected tax evasion and money laundering on a global scale.

As a result of the J5's success, HMRC's Chief Investigation Officer and Director has also issued a statement, claiming that HMRC believes hundreds of individuals in the UK have used the products and services of Euro Pacific Bank. On that basis, HMRC are launching a series of tax enquiries, full criminal investigations and intelligence operations in order to stamp out suspected tax evasion.

This is an unprecedented statement from HMRC, evidently a consequence of the time and effort that has been invested into the latest investigation. HMRC states at the end of its announcement that taxpayers ought to "come to us before we come to you", indicating that they will not hesitate to use its powers to launch a full criminal investigation or open an enquiry.

This is yet another timely reminder and warning to taxpayers who may be impacted by the Euro Pacific Bank probe – although HMRC's invitation to come forward as quickly as possible seems cordial, careful consideration must be taken when considering making voluntary disclosures. It is crucial to fully understand the nature of a tax query and the risks involved, as well as what proactive actions should be taken in order to mitigate such risks.    

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