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Friday, 14 August 2009
Power Corrupts - Who Pays The Bill?
Aside from the civil liberties issues of granting HMRC (ie the state) more power to invade the privacy of individuals, for I suspect precious little reward, who exactly will end up footing the bill for HMRC's forthcoming trawl for information about offshore bank accounts?
This is going to be quite a large exercise.
As per Accounting Web:
Under Schedule 36 of the Finance Act (which came into Wednesday), HMRC now has the power to issue information notices to banks, forcing them to provide data on clients with UK addresses holding offshore investments.
Over 300 banks have been ordered to surrender information about customers with offshore accounts.
Brian Mairs, of the British Bankers' Association, said:
"No bank has any interest in shielding customers who would seek to evade their tax obligations. However, all of them have a duty under the law to keep their customers' affairs confidential.
The affected banks have yet to receive the notices, but once they receive them they will engage with HMRC to understand what information is being sought, whether it is in the power of the bank to provide it and, if so, in what time scale?"
James Bullock, tax partner at McGrigors, is quoted in The Times:
"For the financial institutions concerned this disclosure process is incredibly onerous and costly and they have to foot the bill themselves - even though they are doing HMRC's work for them."
Powers for invasion of privacy and spying should be in proportion to the results expected. I remain to be convinced that this fishing trip will net the government billions in evaded tax receipts.
Tax does have to be taxing.
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