UHY Ross Brooke Chartered Accountants

Where has all my money gone?

Let’s face it, no-one enjoys paying tax, but in general we recognise that public services such as the NHS need funding. Like many others, I pay my tax and have no time for those who can pay their tax but simply choose not to pay. But seldom have I been so vexed as I have by a consultation document issued by HMRC on 6 May entitled “Direct Recovery of Debts”.

According to HMRC the existing powers of recovery are not working adequately and therefore they are seeking further powers. They no longer want to go through the courts to prove a debt but under these proposals HMRC will have the right to take, whatever amounts they regard (no independent review) as outstanding in tax, direct from the individual’s bank account. And make no mistake, this isn’t just going to affect the big tax cheats and villains, but any taxpayer, large or small, where HMRC believe tax has been underpaid.

There is no independent oversight and HMRC become Judge, Jury and Executioner in their own process.

Based on our experience of HMRC errors this would be an absolute disaster. Every day we receive assessments for our clients’ that are either incorrect, have already been paid or the amounts are legitimately disputed by the taxpayer. It is often difficult and time consuming to prove that HMRC have made a mistake and in many cases HMRC officers will only accept that their figures are right and the taxpayer is always mistaken.

HMRC simply make too many mistakes for such a system to work. This is obvious from the recent report of the Adjudicators Office, which oversees HMRC, which stated over 90% of complaints it had investigated had been either partially or fully upheld. And it’s not just me that has concerns. In a letter to George Osbourne the Chief Executive of the British Bankers Association warned that the taxman is too incompetent to be trusted with the power to raid people’s bank accounts.

Liberal Democrat MP John Thurso accused the authorities of trying to override the Magna Carta, that sought to protect citizens rights from plundering kings 800 years ago!

Although HMRC argue that there will be plenty of opportunity to contact them before they withdraw any money, anyone who has had dealings with HMRC will know how frustrating and difficult it is to get through by telephone. As a firm we also regularly experience the quantum of post that goes missing or remains answered for months; and the inability of one department within HMRC to liaise with another department.

How will HMRC know that they are even taking the money from the right bank account? What if your children are too young to open their own savings account, so you open one for them in your own name? What about joint bank accounts where the funds are not held equally? What if there are 2 people living at the same address with similar names? Its simply a disaster waiting to happen.

What’s more, is this just the thin edge of the wedge? What’s next? Will the TV Licencing Authority be given rights to your bank account? The DVLA? Who knows?

I honestly believe that this is #APowerTooFar and if you value your rights as a citizen then I would strongly urge you to step forward and sign the Petition 68384 available on the Government site at http://bit.ly/1szPr5n

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