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Bahamas leak provides ammunition for HMRC in war against tax evasion

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The fresh leak of offshore data from The Bahamas will provide HMRC and other global jurisdictions with further ammunition in the ongoing war against tax evasion, says London accountancy firm Blick Rothenberg.

Isobel Clift, manager at Blick Rothenberg specialising in tax investigations, says: “With around GBP172 billion held in Bahamian banks (26 times the nation’s GDP) it is expected that HMRC will apply resources to examine this information as soon as possible to continue with its ongoing efforts to tackle tax evasion.”
 
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has published details of a leaked cache of 1.3 million internal files from the corporate registry in the Bahamas, considered by many to be the Switzerland of the West. Details of more than 175,000 Bahamian companies registered between 1990 and 2016 are now publicly available, including those linked to politicians and global entrepreneurs. 
 
While the detail made available is not at the level of that seen in the Panama Papers, released just five months ago, this new leak includes information on company names and directors, as well as the names of 539 registered agents, the corporate middleman serving as intermediaries between the Bahamian authorities and those wishing to create an offshore company.
 
Clift says: “This fresh leak of offshore information has arrived neatly alongside the recently introduced Worldwide Disclosure Facility (WDF), launched by HMRC on 5 September. For those who have decided against a disclosure in the past but may now be affected by the Bahamas leak, the WDF is likely to present the most effective way in which to bring their tax affairs up to date.” 
 
According to the ICIJ the new data does not make clear whether directors named in connection with a particular Bahamian firm are in fact in control of the company or simply acting as nominees who front the company but are not involved with the day-to-day operations.
 
Clift adds: “Despite this, it is evident that when paired with the information obtained from the Panama Papers, this new data will provide HMRC and other global jurisdictions with further ammunition in the ongoing war against tax evasion.”

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