Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have been handed sweeping new powers to raid the bank accounts of tax dodgers. Speaking during the budget statement, George Osborne said: “The public tolerance for those who do not pay their fair share evaporated long ago – but we’ve had to wait for this government before there was proper action”.
Anyone who has an account with more than £5,000 in it, and owes at least £1,000 in tax, could see that account raided by HMRC if they have been contacted several times over it. There would still have to be at least £5,000 left in the account afterwards before such action could be taken, the Chancellor said.
George Osborne also said he “will block transfers of profits between companies within groups to avoid tax”. This is a technique currently used by various companies whereby they borrow money from offshore accounts based in tax havens.
These new powers have drawn criticism, however.
Ryan Bourne of the Institute of Economic Affairs told Breitbart London: “These areas should be a matter for the courts. An arbitrary ability for the government to dip into people’s accounts sets a very dangerous precedent.
“I wonder whether the government would be quite so keen to allow individuals to help themselves to HMRC money when it is owed to them due to mistaken tax overpayments.”
Civil liberties campaigners are also concerned.
Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Today the taxman has to go to court to seize your money. Now he’ll be able to do it with a click of a mouse.
“People won’t object to HRMC having legal powers to pursue people who owe them money but they shouldn’t be able to do it without any independent oversight.
“At a time when the Government is looking to reign in the number of public officials who can enter your home without a warrant it is bizarre that the taxman is getting the power to raid your bank account.
“These powers could have a serious impact on people’s lives and as a basic step of protecting peoples liberties they should not be exercised without a court’s approval.”