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Thursday, 6 August 2009

You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off

It seems the leaking of documents on Barclays' tax avoidance activities have come to the attention of the Italian police authorities. Unlike the Anglo-Saxons, some otherwise civilised countries do not draw such a fine distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion.

MILAN (Reuters) - Police are investigating Italy's biggest bank, UniCredit (CRDI.MI), for possible tax evasion stemming from use of a complex Barclays (BARC.L) financial product, sources with knowledge of the investigation said on Wednesday.

"At the moment there are no other banks involved," a source said. The inquiry by financial police began about three months ago.

Authorities have searched UniCredit offices and got electronic data from Barclays, Britain's second-biggest bank by market value, UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo, the sources said.

Barclays declined to comment.

Keeley & Co had better watch their backs after their own Italian Job. In the UK the worst they could expect is a dawn raid from HMRC using kick-your-door-down powers inherited from Revenue and Customs that weren't available to Her Majesty's Inspector of Taxes before their merger.

In Italy they do things a little differently. The Guardia di Finanza is an Italian police force under the authority of the Minister of Economy and Finance, and maintains over 600 boats and ships and more than 100 aircraft. Like the Carabinieri, it is part of the Italian Armed Forces. If they break down your door, it is probably best to hit the floor.



Steven_L said...

What is the distinction between avoidance and evasion exactly?

I tried to read those Barclays wikileaks and couldn't make head nor tail of it.

I did however get the impression that if average Joe headed down companies house and tried to do something similar HMRC wouldn't be all that impressed.

Alex said...

Tax avoidance is "structuring your affairs" to minimise the opportunity for the tax man to dip into your pockets.

Tax evasion is driving to Switzerland with a suitcase full of cash and not telling the taxman about it.

HMRC is rarely impressed. They don't give out medals for this sort of thing.