Those running HMRC claim that HMRC is a professional organisation, that treats its staff and "customers" (that's the taxpayers to you and I) professionally.
I'm all for that!
The trouble is that the many communications I have had from members of staff and taxpayers, and many stories in the media, would indicate otherwise.
Therefore I am more than a "little concerned" to see that HMRC inspectors will be soon acquiring new new powers to investigate and fine taxpayers, without any safeguards for individuals or businesses.
How can this be?
How can powers be granted, without corresponding checks and balances normally associated with a professional organisation?
Simple, there will be safeguards but not for at least four months after the powers have been granted.
HMRC will acquire powers in 2009 to enter business premises and private homes used for business. For errors that are "careless, but non-deliberate", penalties of up to 30% of an unpaid tax bill can be levied. Fines worth 70% of the final tax bill could be imposed, should officials believe the taxpayer deliberately ignored the need to make a payment. Deliberate concealment could trigger fines worth 100% of the final tax bill.
These new powers will come into effect on April 1 2009.
Tax officers will gain powers to inspect and remove information and documents, while the Treasury will limit the amount taxpayers can reclaim in wrongly paid tax from six to four years. Income tax, capital gains tax, VAT and stamp duty tax will be among payments covered by the new regime. Fines can be imposed from March 2009 on tax bills calculated from March 2008.
The charter to protect taxpayers from "over-zealous" inspectors is not even due to complete its consultation phase until at least July 2009.
Publication and distribution of the charter is unlikely until late 2009 or 2010.
This is not just barmy, it's like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Others would seem to agree.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants wants the new powers delayed until 2010, when the charter is sent to all taxpayers.
Roy Maugham, a partner at accountants UHY Hacker Young, said:
"These are hugely draconian proposals that would allow the Treasury to unjustly enrich itself at the expense of individual taxpayers.
The banks have been criticised for their unfair charges, but if the banks shouldn't operate in this way, why should HMRC?
Permitting HMRC to issue daily fines without authorisation from the general or special commissioners would remove a vital legal protection for taxpayers against the arbitrary use of power.
Regardless of whether taxpayers could appeal, the balance is shifted firmly in HMRC's favour, and would inevitably result in greater use of daily fines."
Unfortunately this is entirely in keeping with the Brown ethos of command and control, he despises the individual (both taxpayer and those who work for HMRC) and believes that the state is supreme.
The government and those running HMRC cannot be trusted, as taxpayers and staff can readily attest to.
You should not be fucked without the protection of a condom (the charter is the taxpayers' condom)!
Tax does have to be taxing.
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