Innocent until proved guilty. The principle sits at the heart of the British legal system. It’s something the nation holds dear, something to be proud of in an often crazy, stupid, dangerous and cruel world. But it’s being eroded by HMRC, an organisation coming under fire more and more frequently for their heavy-handed tactics.

Tax regulation doubled during Gordon Brown’s tenure alone

Politicians talk about simplifying the tax system. But it’s all talk. Tolley’s Tax Guide, a comprehensive guide to our tax system, actually doubled in size during Gordon Brown’s time as Chancellor. Which leaves the taxpayer in an increasingly invidious position. The problem is the Treasury lives in a weird world where, according to them, all the money in the economy is theirs. Anything kept by taxpayers is seen as a tax loss.

Last year the government passed a new piece of law overturning the presumption of innocence. The excuse? HMRC thinks it’s a necessary move in the pursuit of tax avoidance. It looks like we’re sleepwalking into a situation where our rights are being compromised to an unacceptable level. For centuries the government has been forced to make a watertight case in court before grabbing cash from a taxpayer. Now, if HMRC is in dispute with you, they can legally demand the amount it thinks you owe, circumventing the legal process.

Should HMRC be allowed to become judge, jury and executioner?

As the Centre for Policy Studies says, HMRC is becoming “judge, jury and executioner.” It could even mean innocent UK taxpayers having to sell up or go bankrupt to satisfy a tax authority with far too much power for its own good. And at the same time big business is still avoiding paying billions in tax.

Did you see it reported on the news?

It hardly made a splash. The change was more or less sneaked through. And it means we face a situation where businesses and individuals have to pay HMRC what they demand whether or not it’s actually due or even owed at all. And we’ll have to take legal action to get it sorted out.

This is, no matter which way you look at it, very wrong. It’s about time someone took a long, hard look at HMRC and reined them in before they become even more all-powerful than they already are.