Accountants warn new powers for the taxman could be illegal

Marion Dakers
PLANS to give the taxman power to seize money from individuals’ bank accounts to cover tax bills could fall foul of the law, top accountants have warned.

Frank Haskew, head of tax at the ICAEW, said that “it’s a fundamental tenant of English law and democratic society that unless I’ve agreed it, there has to be judicial oversight, a judge would have to approve taking money out of my bank account”.

He also told the Treasury Select Committee that he was worried about the “widespread problem” of HM Revenue & Customs attempting to chase taxpayers who did not owe anything, which could become a bigger problem under the new powers.

Andrew Courts of ACCA echoed his concerns. “[H]owever many safeguards there are on the ability to simply take money from somebody’s bank account, it does rely on the authority having worked out what should correctly be taken from it in the first place,” he said.

George Osborne announced the Budget plans to hand HMRC extra powers to seize money from anyone it thinks owes more than £1,000 in tax.

The Treasury has said that the rules will only apply to people who “have the financial means to pay” and ignored previous requests.