Just done an interview with HM Customs and Excise about
this story - as written here by the Press Association:
Critics hit out today at plans to allow the taxman to take money straight out
of the bank accounts of habitual non-payers.
In a consultation paper, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) suggested officials
could freeze and then remove the amount owed without going through the courts
and even demand cash from the sale of land or property, including homes.
Tax campaigners said the proposals showed a disregard for people's rights and
called for safeguards to be put in place to protect individuals.
At present, HMRC can seize moveable property and sell it to pay tax debts but
has to get permission from a court to collect the money directly from a person's
bank account or to seize property like a person's home.
The consultation document states: "Taxpayers who owe money to HMRC frequently
have sufficient funds or assets to pay their debts, but choose to delay doing
so. HMRC currently lacks the full range of powers to ensure prompt payment."
The report adds that the additional powers "would ensure that taxpayers owing
debts to HMRC cannot escape payment where they have sufficient funds to meet
If agreed, the proposals would mean HMRC would have the right to freeze an
amount equal to the outstanding debt within the bank account.
That sum would be paid over to HMRC after a specific period by the bank or
building society if other attempts to collect the debt proved fruitless.
If the debtor owns land or buildings, HMRC could demand the tax bill is paid
from the proceeds if the asset were sold. Meanwhile, HMRC would continue to
pursue the debt using other methods.
There would be a right to appeal but the HMRC's report said the large majority
of the 200,000 court orders currently sought each year for unpaid tax are
The report also pledges the HMRC would take into account the effect action
would have on the debtor's ability to pay ordinary living expenses, in the same
way a court would.
But some tax experts have raised concern over the proposals.
Dr Eamonn Butler, director of the free-market think tank Adam Smith Institute,
said: "An interesting, ancient feature of Britain's common law was that when
people fall into debt, most of their goods could be sold - but not their home,
their bedding, or the tools of their trade.
"The law realised that people would never get out of debt if these things were
denied to them. But who cares about ancient rights, or such common-sense any
more? Not our over-mighty officials."
John Whiting, chairman of tax policy at the Chartered Institute of Taxation,
said: "We need to make sure that if Revenue and Customs has the powers, we have
the safeguards. It needs to be a fair package on all sides.
"We need to know where the line is and what are our powers to fend the taxman
Matthew Sinclair, spokesman for the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "HMRC wants to
circumvent tried-and-tested court procedure that prevents unlawful seizure.
"People should be wary of bids for new powers like these because the tax man
has always maximised revenue and then dealt with questions and complaints
"This measure moves the onus from them, to get the required permission from a
court, on to the individual taxpayer who must lodge any appeal of unfair
treatment afterwards. It is a step too far."