Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) – Overview

By Tolley
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The following Corporation Tax guidance note by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) – Overview
  • Introduction
  • What does HMRC do with DOTAS information?
  • Scope
  • How does DOTAS work?
  • Penalties
  • Accelerated payments

Introduction

Over many years, successive Governments have introduced measures to curb what they have seen as being unacceptable tax avoidance. This is different to tax evasion, where sums or sources of income or gains are concealed or omitted from a taxpayer’s returns. Avoidance is where the taxpayer uses the way in which tax law, or a combination of tax laws, works to achieve a tax advantage, such as minimising or delaying tax bills (or maximising or accelerating a tax repayment), otherwise than where the legislation in question was introduced with the aim of delivering that tax advantage.

In addition to the inclusion of numerous specific anti-avoidance provisions designed to stop identified avoidance schemes, the UK tax code includes several wider anti-avoidance tools:

  • the regime for Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) – aimed at providing HMRC with early intelligence about avoidance
  • the General Anti-Abuse Rule – aimed at counteracting any tax advantage delivered by avoidance not caught by more specific measures (see the General anti-abuse rule (GAAR) guidance note)
  • accelerated tax payments
  • the regime for Promoters of Tax Avoidance Schemes (POTAS) – aimed at changing the behaviour of agents who offer high-risk avoidance schemes to their clients

The Government is also consulting on possible further sanctions for tax avoidance (see Strengthening Sanctions for Tax Avoidance - a consultation on detailed proposals ). That consultation includes proposals to deter serial tax-avoiders, a penalty regime for the GAAR and proposals to extend the threshold for the POTAS regime.

This guidance note focuses on the DOTAS regime, which was first introduced in Finance Act 2004 and has been repeatedly amended since that time.

The DOTAS regime is deliberately cast quite widely so that it is capable of applying both to something that

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