HMRC is seeking new powers that will allow it to obtain information about taxpayers from any business or organisation without seeking approval from the tax tribunal.
The proposals, set out in a government consultation launched this week, would allow HMRC to submit information requests directly to financial institutions, accountants, lawyers, estate agents and other third parties.
The consultation also proposes the introduction of a new “financial institution” information request, which would allow HMRC to obtain bank statements, transaction histories and other basic banking information “reasonably required to check a taxpayers’ tax position” without tribunal approval.
The FT quotes Jason Collins, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons:
“If anyone was alarmed at HMRC’s reach then these new powers will feed their concerns. HMRC is essentially asking for unfettered access to information on taxpayers from third parties with no advance independent oversight.”Obtaining prior consent from the tax tribunal was an essential check, he said, and helped safeguard taxpayers against speculative enquiries or “fishing expeditions”.
Tim Stovold, head of tax at accountants Kingston Smith, said:
“HMRC wants to remove the protection that ordinary citizens currently have from intrusion into their private financial affairs from the state . . . To abolish the need to seek authorisation from the tribunal would remove a vital public safeguard.”The state (especially HMRC) cannot be trusted, and as such any attempt by the state to gather data and information on people's private finances (when they have not been convicted of a crime) without adequate independent oversight should be resisted and stopped.
Tax does have to be taxing.
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