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UK Taxman Warns Dodgers on YouTube

The UK government's tax department took to social networking for the first time to warn people to come clean about offshore bank accounts by November 30 2009 to avoid penalty charges or even prison.

A hard-hitting two-minute video posted on YouTube warns people with offshore accounts that they have "one final chance to come clean" or they must "face the consequences".

While it is not illegal to have offshore accounts in the UK, anyone who receives savings and investment income from abroad needs to declare it on their tax return.

"For some people, offshore bank accounts and tax havens typically conjure up images of exotic and far away places, well out of reach of the taxman at home," Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), says in his posted video warning. "Well, life's just not like that anymore. And here's a blunt message from HM Revenue & Customs: times have changed. The taxman now has more powers and information."

The video alerts people with an intention to disclose that their notification must be made to HMRC by 30 November. Disclosures can be made on paper up until 31 January, 2010, and electronically up to 12 March, 2010.

Those who disclose before the deadline will have their penalty capped at 10 percent of the unpaid tax, or 20 percent if they failed to declare during the first disclosure campaign.

People who fail to come forward before the time limit and are found to have undeclared tax liabilities will face a fine of at least 30 percent of the unpaid tax, but can be fined up to 100 percent. They are also more likely to face prosecution, according to the BBC website.

The revelation of the video came at the same time as a report stating that the UK government will need to implement a further £350 billion of tax rises and spending cuts.

The UK's public borrowing will rise to 15 percent of its gross domestic product this year, Roger Bootle, an economic adviser to Deloitte and author of the report, predicted.

In contrast, the Treasury forecasts UK borrowings will reach only 12 percent of GDP this year.