HSBC is back in the spotlight again over allegedly helping clients evade tax and offering deals to help them stay ahead of the law.
Although known in tax circles for several years, the BBC Panorama team says it has now seen thousands of accounts from HSBC's private bank in Switzerland leaked by a whistleblower back in 2007.
The documents contain details of more than 100,000 clients around the world.
HSBC has since admitted that some individuals took advantage of bank secrecy to hold undeclared accounts, but said it has now fundamentally changed.
HMRC has also been criticised for its response to the revelations and for only delivering one tax evasion prosecution so far.
Shadow financial secretary to the treasury Cathy Jamieson said: “HMRC were made fully aware of these practices back in 2010. There are serious questions for the Chancellor to answer about why just one person out of over a thousand have been prosecuted in five years.”
However John Cassidy, a partner at Crowe Clark Whitehill, told AccountingWEB the reason for just one conviction was that once people have realised that the game is up, they’ve made disclosure and squared matters away as is normal.
“The big message is that for anyone who hasn’t done this, you still can and you’ve got a year left of the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility which is perfectly written,” Cassidy said.
He added that the Panorama investigation was old news: “It’s not new news on the basis that in the professional world it’s been known for a long time that that was an issue because HSBC had stolen bank data.”
HMRC also recently updated its guidance on disclosure of Swiss bank accounts and other offshore investments to include a Swiss standard disclosure pack.
The tax yield from the LDF for undeclared offshore liabilities has climbed through the £1bn barrier, but is likely to be short of delivering the £3bn originally promised.
The Swiss standard disclosure pack is available on the GOV.UK website.