MPs criticise HMRC plan to raid bank accounts
Cross-party committee concerned taxman could act as ‘judge and jury’
A powerful group of MPs has criticised a new plan to allow the UK tax authority to take money directly from millions of people’s bank accounts.
Chancellor George Osborne laid out plans for the scheme in the Budget, granting new confiscatory powers to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to recover debt from anyone who owes more than £1,000. This would allow the tax authority to seize money directly from debtors’ accounts, The Independent reports.
In a report on this year’s Budget, the cross-party Treasury Committee criticised the plan and expressed concerns over HMRC’s history of making mistakes.
“The proposal to grant HMRC the power to recover money directly from taxpayers’ bank accounts is of considerable concern to the committee,” the report said. “The committee considers a lengthy and full consultation to be essential.
“Giving HMRC this power without some form of prior independent oversight – for example by a new ombudsman or tribunal, or through the courts – would be wholly unacceptable.”
The committee said it was particularly concerned about the plan because of HMRC’s past history of sometimes failing to calculate tax bills accurately.
“People should pay the right amount of tax. But HMRC does not always ask for the right amount”, said committee chairman Andrew Tyrie.
Another committee member, Mark Garnier, a Conservative MP, told the BBC that he had serious concerns about changes to the current system. “What we worry about is... that essentially HMRC will be acting as judge and jury,” he said.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales said the plans are “of considerable concern to many taxpayers and accountants”. The institute’s head of taxation, Frank Haskew, warned that the changes may even be illegal, The Times reports.
He noted that it was “a fundamental tenet of our English law and our democratic society” that money “cannot be grabbed from somebody’s account without a judge agreeing to the move”.