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Legal News | 22.08.17

New Corporate Offences of Facilitating Tax Evasion

On 27 April 2017 the Criminal Finances Bill received Royal Assent. The Criminal Finances Act 2017 (“the Act”) is expected to come into force during the autumn and on a date that the Government has yet to announce. This brings together a number of important changes to the law governing money laundering, criminal property and corporate offences. The Act also introduces a new corporate offence of failing to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion.

This will bring into force what the Government sees as a gap in the criminal law. It has a very wide scope and the definition in the Act of Corporate Body also encompasses partnerships, so that it covers professional firms giving tax advice.

In simple terms, a Company or Partnership will commit an offence if a person associated with it facilitates tax evasion in the UK or Overseas. The new offences carry strict liability, but for the Company to commit an offence there must be an underlying offence of tax evasion. The Company will also have a legal defence available, that the Company had in place preventative procedures that were reasonable in the circumstances.

The Government will issue guidance about the new offences in due course. It remains to be seen how the new law will be applied in practice and by the Courts. However, all Companies and Partnerships must have in place procedures to deal with it, that is if they are to benefit from the legal defence mentioned above.

We can assist those affected with the new policies and risk assessments that will be required. Those need to be in place by the time that the new law comes into force.