Nobody likes a tax avoider. It’s a dishonourable, greedy and cowardly thing to do. But HMRC’s determination to directly access the bank accounts of people suspected of avoidance was way beyond the pale. Thankfully the Treasury has agreed to revise HMRC’s plans and give taxpayers longer to appeal.
George Osborne’s particularly harsh suggestions have been watered down
The tax office’s new powers were announced by George Osborne in the Budget, allowing HMRC to seize assets from people who owe more than £1,000 in tax or tax credits. But banks, MPs and charities kicked up a fuss. Now HMRC will be forced to hold a face-to-face meeting with a debtor first, before ransacking their bank account willy nilly.
The ACCA is pleased…
Mr Chas Roy-Chowdhury, the head of taxation at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, is pleased the original plans have been revised, welcoming the fact that vulnerable taxpayers would now be “identified and taken out of the process entirely”.
… but the charity National Debtline is less pleased
On the other hand a spokesperson from the Money Advice Trust, which runs the National Debtline charity, said the changes were only “something of an improvement”, saying that “These new powers to raid bank accounts may still be subject to HMRC error.” Her concerns make sense when we all know how many errors the tax man makes: far too many for any honest taxpayer’s comfort.
New appeal process only goes some way to calming fears
There’s a new appeal process, extended from just 2 weeks to 30 days. And the Treasury insisted the new powers would only be used against debtors who had consistently refused to talk with HMRC or pay their tax. Will it work out that way? Many people feel HMRC will ride roughshod over taxpayers anyway – but only time will tell.