Starting from this month, new 'unexplained wealth order' powers, UWO for short, are accessible to agencies such as HMRC, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), National Crime Agency (NCA), Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
As an investigatory tool the UWO will allow agencies investigating people who are suspected to be involved in crime/misconduct to explain their interest in the property they hold and how they obtained it - sources of income etc.
The investigating agency must apply for a High Court order providing reasonable grounds for requesting the UWO where they have grounds that the party under investigation does not have lawful income that can allow them to obtain the presented wealth. The reasonable grounds definition covers acts such as serious crime and includes tax evasion.
Failure to respond to a UWO will give the agency the ability to commence recovery action and use an interim freezing order.
The Taxman can apply for these powers if they feel a person has assets worth more than £50,000 and their data shows that no lawful income could have led to the assets being obtained. For example, a business disclosing lower trade than reflected by the owner's property would be a prime candidate. If successful, the Taxman can freeze funds and then begin action to recover assets.
Starting this April recovery can even extend from property, vehicles and cash to betting receipts, vouchers, casino tokens, precious metals, high value watches, high value art and even stamps.