HMRC’s Worldwide Disclosure Service

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HMRC’s Worldwide Disclosure Service (WDS) is a valuable tool for UK taxpayers who must disclose offshore income or assets. The WDS allows taxpayers to come forward and correct their tax affairs with HMRC, potentially avoiding penalties and legal consequences.

However, navigating the disclosure process can be complex and daunting, so working with a professional advisor is crucial. In this article, we will explore the role of a professional advisor in utilising HMRC’s WDS and the benefits of working with one. We will also discuss the various steps involved in preparing for and participating in the disclosure process, including the signs that indicate you need to use the WDS.

Who can use WDS?

According to HMRC, the Worldwide Disclosure Service (WDS) is available to anyone who wants to disclose any unpaid UK tax that relates wholly or partly to an offshore issue. This includes individuals, trustees, and companies who are resident in the UK or have a UK domicile. The WDS is also available to non-UK residents with a UK tax obligation.

It’s important to note that the WDS is not suitable for those who are already under investigation by HMRC or who have received a letter from HMRC informing them of an investigation. In these cases, it’s best to seek professional advice on the next steps to take.

What types of offshore assets need to be disclosed?

As a UK taxpayer, you must disclose any offshore assets and income to HMRC, including those held in bank accounts, trusts, and companies. This includes:

  1. Bank and building society accounts held outside the UK
  2. Shares in overseas companies
  3. Rental income from overseas properties
  4. Business interests and partnerships held outside the UK
  5. Income from overseas pensions and investments
  6. Any other offshore assets that generate income or gains

It’s important to note that the requirement to disclose offshore assets and income applies to all UK taxpayers, regardless of the size of their income or assets held offshore.

What happens if I don’t disclose my offshore assets?

If you don’t disclose your offshore assets and HMRC finds out, you could face significant penalties and even criminal charges in some cases. The penalties for failing to disclose offshore assets can be severe and may include financial penalties, interest charges, and even prosecution. The exact penalties will depend on the nature and extent of your non-disclosure and your cooperation with HMRC during the investigation. It’s important to remember that HMRC has significantly increased its efforts to combat offshore tax evasion recently and is actively using information-sharing agreements with other countries to identify non-compliant taxpayers. Therefore, it’s essential to comply with the requirements of the Worldwide Disclosure Service if you have offshore assets that need to be disclosed.

Is the WDS the same as the Common Reporting Standard (CRS)?

No, the Worldwide Disclosure Service (WDS) and the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) differ. The WDS is a voluntary disclosure facility offered by HMRC to individuals who want to disclose their offshore assets and bring their tax affairs up to date. Conversely, the CRS is an international agreement between over 100 countries to automatically exchange tax information on their residents’ financial accounts, including offshore assets. While the CRS aims to prevent tax evasion and improve tax transparency, the WDS is a tool to help taxpayers voluntarily disclose any offshore assets they have failed to report in the past.

What are the deadlines for using the WDS?

The deadlines for using the WDS depend on the individual’s circumstances. In general, if an individual has already received a letter from HMRC about their offshore assets, they have 90 days to disclose them using the WDS. If an individual has not received a letter but knows or suspects they have undisclosed offshore assets, they should disclose them as soon as possible to avoid penalties. The WDS is an ongoing service with no set deadlines for disclosing. However, individuals who wait too long to disclose may face higher penalties if HMRC discovers their offshore assets through other means. It is best to consult a professional advisor to determine the best course of action and any relevant deadlines for an individual’s specific circumstances.

Can I use the WDS if I have already received a letter from HMRC about my offshore assets?

You can still use the WDS even if you have already received a letter from HMRC about your offshore assets. However, acting quickly and seeking professional advice is essential to ensure you comply with HMRC’s requirements and avoid potential penalties. It is worth noting that using the WDS to disclose your offshore assets after receiving a letter from HMRC may result in higher penalties than making a voluntary disclosure. Therefore, seeking professional advice as soon as possible is essential to determine the best course of action.

How long does the disclosure process take?

The length of the disclosure process can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the volume of information that needs to be provided. HMRC aims to complete the process within 18 months of receiving the disclosure. However, this timeline can be affected by factors such as the accuracy and completeness of the information provided, any challenges or disputes that arise during the process, and the workload of HMRC staff at the time. It is crucial to work with a professional advisor who can help ensure that all necessary information is provided accurately and efficiently to minimize any delays in the process.

Will I face penalties if I use the WDS?

Yes, you may still face penalties if you use the WDS. However, using the WDS may help to reduce the amount of penalties that you could face. The penalties you may face depend on various factors, such as the amount of tax owed, the seriousness of the issue, and whether or not the disclosure was made voluntarily. Working with a professional advisor who can guide you through the disclosure process and help minimise any penalties is vital.

Can I disclose my offshore assets anonymously through the WDS?

No, you cannot disclose your offshore assets anonymously through the WDS. The purpose of the WDS is to encourage individuals to come forward and disclose their offshore assets voluntarily. To do this, HMRC requires individuals to provide their personal information, including their name, address, and taxpayer reference number.

Can I use the WDS to disclose assets in a trust or company?

You can use the WDS to disclose assets in a trust or company. However, the disclosure process may be more complex in these cases. You must provide detailed information about the trust or company, including its name, address, and registration number. You may also need to provide additional documentation to support your disclosure, such as trust deeds or company accounts. You should work with a professional advisor to ensure that your disclosure is complete and accurate.

Benefits of Working with a Professional Advisor

Collaborating with a professional advisor while utilising HMRC’s WDS can provide numerous advantages. Here are some key benefits:

  1. Expertise and Knowledge: A professional advisor will have extensive knowledge and experience of the disclosure process and a thorough understanding of the relevant tax laws and regulations. This can be invaluable in ensuring that the disclosure is handled correctly and that any penalties or fines are minimal.
  2. Personalised Advice: Every situation is unique, and a professional advisor can provide tailored advice based on your specific circumstances. They can help you to understand the options available to you and make informed decisions about how to proceed.
  3. HMRC Negotiations: A professional advisor can negotiate with HMRC on your behalf, potentially reducing any penalties or fines you may be liable for. They can also help you navigate the complex HMRC compliance procedures, ensuring everything is done correctly and efficiently.
  4. Future Compliance: Working with a professional advisor can help you to put measures in place to ensure future compliance with offshore tax regulations. This can reduce the risk of future issues with HMRC and provide peace of mind that your tax affairs are in order.

In summary, collaborating with a professional advisor can provide you with the expertise, personalised advice, and HMRC negotiation skills you need to achieve a successful and stress-free disclosure process.

How a Professional Advisor Can Help in Negotiating with HMRC

A professional advisor can help you negotiate with HMRC by providing expert guidance on tax compliance and the disclosure process. They can help you understand your legal obligations and ensure your disclosure is accurate and complete.

In addition, a professional advisor can assist with communication between you and HMRC, including drafting and submitting letters and responding to queries. This can help to ensure that the disclosure process runs smoothly and that any issues are resolved quickly.

Common Issues That May Arise During the Disclosure Process and How an Advisor Can Help

During the disclosure process, several common issues may arise. These can include questions about the accuracy or completeness of your disclosure, issues with timing, or disputes over penalties or fines.

A professional advisor can help address these issues by providing expert guidance on tax compliance and working with HMRC to resolve disputes. They can also help ensure that any penalties or fines are minimised and that you fully comply with all relevant tax laws and regulations.

The Benefits of Having a Professional Advisor to Work with During the Disclosure Process

Working with a professional advisor during the disclosure process can provide several benefits. These include:

  • Expert guidance on tax compliance and the disclosure process
  • Assistance with communication between you and HMRC
  • Minimisation of penalties and fines
  • Ensuring full compliance with all relevant tax laws and regulations

In addition, working with an advisor can provide peace of mind and reduce the stress and uncertainty of the disclosure process.


If you are considering utilising HMRC’s Worldwide Disclosure Service, working with a professional advisor can provide valuable assistance and ensure that the process runs smoothly. By providing expert guidance on tax compliance and resolving any issues that may arise, an advisor can help minimise penalties and fines and ensure full compliance with all relevant tax laws and regulations. Contact us today to learn how our experienced advisors can assist you with your disclosure needs.