HMRC Task-Force tracks overseas property tax cheats

A 200-strong team of investigators is targeting overseas property owners to check they are not tax cheats

HM Revenue and Customs has warned wealthy UK residents with homes and land overseas that the team is checking whether they have paid enough tax on rents and capital gains.

The task force can call on finance, accounting and property experts from across HMRC to hunt tax cheats.

The investigators are using sophisticated and innovative risk assessment techniques to identify wealthy individuals avoiding and evading taxes and duties.

The team’s main weapon is data-mining with web spiders – small pieces of computer code that crawl the internet looking for targeted data in the same way search engines collate information.

The spiders can sift websites for information about overseas apartments or villas for rent and link the information with an owner from data obtained from foreign governments through tax information treaties.

The aim is to identify property owners who do not appear to have the means to own homes abroad, as well as those who are failing to declare rents and gains on tax returns.

Commodity traders and investors with offshore bank and savings accounts are also HMRC targets.

The task force is working across several HMRC departments and includes experts handling companies, residence inquiries and trusts.