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Net closes on off-shore accounts

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HMRC reported a flurry of last-minute letters and phone calls last night from UK taxpayers promising to pay backdated tax and fines on sums held in foreign accounts.

Those who failed to disclose information about taxable savings would be investigated, officials said, and harsher fines would be imposed on people found to have flouted the law and not owned up.

The government hopes to raise many millions of pounds of new income through the scheme. In an earlier amnesty targeting customers of the main high street banks it raised £450m from 45,000 account holders.

According to reports in the Independent, however, the government could see a lot less cash this time around.

"My guess is that they won’t get more than 20,000 registering," the newspaper reported Stephen Camm, a tax partner at accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers, as saying.

"That could leave still hundreds of thousands of UK people paying no tax on money kept in offshore accounts."

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