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Archive 11.6.14

HMRC’s hand in your pocket

Archive 11.06.2014

When George Osborne said that he would give power to HMRC to take tax owed direct from the bank accounts of hard-core tax defaulters, some saw this as a serious infringement of civil liberty but many thought it a reasonable thing to do. We now have details of what is proposed. A hard-core defaulter is someone who has not paid despite four communications from HMRC – but as these appear to include notices that a tax return is due, such a person may have had only a single demand for the tax before HMRC take his money. Over the years I have seen a number of frightened (mainly elderly) people who freeze at the receipt of a brown envelope. I have known people who do not understand tax and are afraid to contact HMRC to ask why they owe the money that HMRC are claiming. I have known people who have received a demand for money that they know they do not owe and ignored the demand because they assumed that HMRC would soon realise their mistake. All these people are apparently now hard-core defaulters. If you are a hard-core tax defaulter, HMRC will go behind your back and ask your bank for copies of your bank statements for the last 12 months. A bank includes a building society and an ISA. You thought these were confidential? The law will override that confidentiality. HMRC will then write to you telling you that they intend to tell your bank to pay HMRC in 14 days time the money that HMRC think you owe. The 14 days give you time to talk to HMRC – assuming that is that you are not on holiday or away from home nursing a sick parent or otherwise away from home for the entire 14 days. And of course also assuming that HMRC know your up to date address. How do HMRC know where you bank? You may have told them on your tax return. If you receive bank interest, your bank will have made a return to them of such interest. The only safe route seems to be to move your bank accounts overseas! You can read a more in depth discussion and examples about HMRC’s access to your bank account here.