Oh What a Wicked Web We Weave…

Entertaining though it was, I suspect that, as ever, Panorama’s exposé of the shady goings on at Lloyds TSB’s offshore arm in Jersey generated more heat than light.

Having spent a fair percentage of my career offshore – and in Jersey for most of the time – I’d have to say that the depiction of the island as being a tax dodger’s paradise is well wide of the mark.

Facilitation of tax evasion – be that UK taxes or anywhere else for that matter – is actually a criminal offence in Jersey, caught under an anti-money laundering regime that was recently described as the best in the world by the IMF.

Unless you like prison food and stripy suntans, there is little to gain from helping any customer illegally evade his domestic tax obligations.

I suspect we are looking at issues of competency, rather than an intricate conspiracy.

But Lloyds TSB will have to look at how this came about.

Perhaps they need to review their training and incentive policies.

The EU Savings Tax Directive is a red herring in this regard – it doesn’t matter whether the income is paid in China or Timbuktu, if you are UK resident and UK domiciled, you have to pay tax on your offshore income: no fancy footwork gets you out of this and customers who fail to declare this income are breaking the law, savings tax directive or not.

There does still seem to be a perception – actually not helped by Panorama in my view – that stashing your cash offshore is a great tax wheeze. It isn’t.

There are legitimate ways of mitigating your tax liabilities, and it is still your right to arrange your affairs accordingly.

But stashing it offshore is not going to get you anything but trouble if it is used as a tax wheeze.

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