3:23 am - Sunday November 8, 2015

Tax authority to expand probe into HSBC accounts

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The UK tax authority will expand the scope of its investigation into Swiss tax accounts held with HSBC, the BBC has learned.

HMRC will meet with the police and the Serious Fraud Office later in the week.

The BBC’s business editor, Kamal Ahmed, said the move to involve other law enforcement agencies represented a serious escalation of the matter.

Earlier, in an angry exchange, MPs accused tax officials of failing to deal with the matter adequately.

Top officials from HM Revenue & Customs were shouted down by MPs, angry at what they said was a lack of urgency in tackling the HSBC tax-dodging scandal.

Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, accused Lin Homer, HMRC chief executive, of a “pathetic response”.

Ms Homer denied she had failed to take firm action against UK citizens hiding money in HSBC accounts in Geneva.

She said it was “absolutely not the case” she was failing the UK taxpayer.

Ms Homer, the chief executive of HMRC, explained why there had been only one prosecution of someone whose hidden accounts in Switzerland had been revealed.

She said that most of the information leaked via the French authorities in 2010, which involved about 3,600 UK individuals, was incomplete or “dirty” data.

Of these, 3,200 individuals had been traced and, of the 1,100 most serious cases – which HMRC had chosen to pursue – only 130 were now outstanding.

From the rest of those cases, £135m had been recovered, Ms Homer said.

“We were speedy and on the case,” she told the MPs.

She explained that in fact, two-thirds of the total group of UK-based HSBC account holders “were found to be compliant” with UK tax rules, in some cases because they had non-dom status.

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