Deferred Prosecution Agreements are here to stay
In a recent interview, the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Lisa Osofsky, has given her support to the continued use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) as an effective tool in the fight against economic crime.
DPAs, which are essentially American-style corporate plea bargains, came into use in the UK in 2015. They allow companies who admit wrongdoing to reach an agreement with the prosecutor, under the supervision of a judge. That agreement allows the prosecution to be suspended for a defined period provided the organisation meets certain specified conditions, which usually include fines and monitoring, avoiding the additional damage a conviction would likely bring.
DPAs have come under criticism since their introduction in the UK as some say they enable companies to engage in and admit criminal conduct yet avoid prosecution. Also there have been questions asked as to how effective a tool DPAs are to incentivise companies to self-report, as the UK lacks the strong deterrents to economic crime available in the US.
Osofsky claims that, since their introduction, DPAs have been effective in ensuring companies ‘clean up’ their act. For example, in 2017, two major companies, Tesco and Rolls-Royce, agreed DPAs with the SFO, paying £129 million and £500 million respectively.
However, since Osofsky took over at the SFO in September 2018 a re-trial of former Tesco directors has collapsed and an investigation into individuals linked to the Rolls-Royce case was closed. Despite this she claims that even if there is not enough evidence to prosecute individuals over the misconduct outlined in DPAs, they still serve an important purpose: ‘Corporates (are run) by individuals. But how do you reprimand, discipline, punish bad corporate behavior…? I see (cases against companies and individuals) as two very different things and I think the role of the DPA is to make sure that the company engages with prosecutors, comes forward and cleans up its act.’
Osofsky declined to comment on whether some of the cases she inherited will be closed in the near future. These include investigations into, among others, Rio Tinto, Airbus, British American Tobacco, Tata Steel and ENRC. She did however say that for cases to be impactful they need not involve large companies and that any company successfully prosecuted is progress.
JHA specialises in investigations, litigation and dispute resolution. We bring together leading barristers, solicitors and forensic accountants, to support clients at every stage and have deep experience of working with regulators including the SFO, FCA and HMRC.
Increased Investment in Personal Tax Compliance in the UK (Published in Thought Leaders 4 Private Client)
Advances in technology and increased international fiscal co-operation have made global personal tax compliance initiatives pop up in abundance in recent years. To compound the issue, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the corresponding economic fallout prompted domestic governments to increase transparency in relation to investments held by wealthy foreign individuals (with a focus on oligarchs).
In the UK, in the context of the cost-of-living crisis, public opinion certainly seems to be in favour of increased accountability for high-net-worth individuals (eg, on 9 October 2022, 63% of Britons surveyed thought that “the rich are not paying enough and their taxes should be increased”).1
HMRC is one of the most sophisticated tax collection authorities in the world and the department is making significant investments in technology in the field of compliance work; they are well placed to take advantage of new international efforts to increase tax compliance, particularly considering the already extensive network of 130 bilateral tax treaties in the UK (the largest in the world).2 The UK was also a founding member of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) forum.
This article discusses the main developments in support of the increased focus on international transparency and personal tax compliance in the UK. There are other international fiscal initiatives, particularly in the field of corporate taxation, but such initiatives are beyond the scope of this article.
It should be noted that a somewhat piecemeal approach, with constant tinkering makes compliance difficult for the taxpayer and is often criticised for lacking the certainty that a stable tax system needs to thrive.
This article was first published with ThoughtLeaders4 Private Client Magazine
Tax-Related Measures in the Autumn Statement 2022
On 17 November 2022, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, unveiled the contents of the Autumn Budget 2022. This comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published its world economic forecast on 11 October 2022. The IMF expects the British economy to grow 3.6% in 2022 and 0.3% in 2023. Other major developed economies are also expected to stagnate next year, namely Spain (1.2%), the US (1.0%), France (0.7%), Italy (-0.2%) and Germany (-0.3%).
This note focuses on tax measures included as part of that statement.
Offshore Structures and Onward Gifts
The so-called “onward gift” tax anti-avoidance rules were introduced by the Finance Act 2018 to complement the changes brought in the previous year aimed at restricting the UK tax privileges afforded to non-UK domiciled individuals. The rules were designed to close some perceived loopholes in relation to the taxation of non-UK resident structures (including but not limited to non-UK trusts). With effect from 6 April 2018, it would no longer be possible for an individual to receive a gift without questioning its providence, particularly where family trusts are involved.
The rules were designed to prevent non-UK structures from using non-chargeable beneficiaries as conduits through which to pass payments in order to avoid tax charges. Gone are the days of “washing out” any trust gains that could be matched to offshore income or gains by prefacing a payment to a UK-resident taxable beneficiary with a non-taxable primary payment to a non-UK resident beneficiary.
“It is notoriously challenging to prove a negative (especially to HMRC) and even more tricky where the taxpayer must speak to someone’s intention other than their own.”
Note that the new rules will apply where funds are received from non-UK resident structures before 6 April 2018 to the extent that they are subsequently gifted after that date.
Increased Investment in Personal Tax Compliance in the UK
Changes in public opinion, advances in technology and increased international fiscal co-operation have made global personal tax compliance initiatives pop up in abundance in recent years. In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the corresponding economic fallout have prompted governments to increase transparency in relation to investments by wealthy foreign individuals in their countries.
The UK’s HMRC is one of the most sophisticated tax collection authorities in the world and the department is making significant investments in technology in the field of compliance work.
It should therefore be well placed to take advantage of new international efforts to increase tax compliance, particularly against the backdrop of the already extensive network of bilateral tax treaties in the UK, and not forgetting that the UK was a founding member of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) forum.
This article discusses the main developments in support of the increased focus on international transparency and tax compliance in the UK. There are other international fiscal initiatives, particularly in the field of corporate taxation, but such initiatives are beyond the scope of this article.
Case note: Lynton Exports (Alsager) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 00224 (TC)
As HMRC continue to apply the Kittel principle to increasing numbers of industries and businesses, taxpayers need to be vigilant about evidential requirements that HMRC must fulfil in order to discharge their burden of proof. Read JHA’s latest insight into the First-tier Tribunal’s decision in Lynton Exports (Alsager) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 00224 (TC).
If you require any further information about the Kittel, Mecsek, and Ablessio principles, or any other allegations by HMRC of fraud or fraudulent abuse, please contact Iain MacWhannell (firstname.lastname@example.org).