The Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) regime was first introduced in 2004 and is designed to provide HMRC with information about potential tax avoidance arrangements at an early stage.
DOTAS imposes a duty on taxpayers and their advisers to inform HMRC about "notifiable arrangements" and proposals. A "notifiable arrangement" is essentially one which is designed to enable a taxpayer to gain a tax advantage and the main benefit, or one of the main benefits, of the arrangement is tax advantage the arrangement is designed to provide. DOTAS is essentially designed to catch those artificially contrived tax schemes that the media loves to report on, particularly when celebrities are involved.
DOTAS does currently apply to IHT but the proposals in last year's budget would potentially have brought even basic arrangements, such as lifetime giving, within DOTAS.
This would have brought some fairly onerous reporting obligations on taxpayers entering into even the most basic lifetime tax planning, and so there was welcome news last week that HMRC are shelving their plans to extend DOTAS as it applies to IHT.
HM Revenue & Customs has temporarily shelved plans to extend the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) regulations to cover most types of inheritance tax (IHT) planning. The so-called 'draft hallmark' measures were published for consultation in July last year. They set out that an arrangement would in future fall under DOTAS if its main purpose, or one of its main purposes, was to obtain an IHT advantage, and if it were 'contrived, abnormal, or unlikely to have been made if there were no tax advantage'. Arrangements made as part of a will were explicitly excluded, but almost any other form of tax planning – even lifetime gifts to family members – could be caught.