MPs on the UK’s Treasury Select Committee have accused tax authorities of riding roughshod over the Magna Carta, with their new powers to empty members of the public’s bank accounts with little scrutiny. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) say they need to recover tax debts from 17,000 people and claim the debtors can afford to pay.
According to the Daily Telegraph the politicians said they were “horrified” by the proposals at a session with the HMRC Chief Executive Lin Homer lasting more than three hours. Homer insisted that powers would only be used in extreme circumstances and that they would never leave anyone without “enough money to live.” However this would be at the discretion of HMRC, and therefore could be open to abuse.
Liberal Democrat MP, John Thurso said that HMRC were over-riding Magna Carta, the Great Charter that was signed by King John 800 years ago and enshrined the rights of the citizen into law.
Thurso said: “We are talking about the ability of one organ of the state to have the unique right to go against the Magna Carta charter and go in and seize – without judicial process or review – a bank account.” Homer denied that the powers were against Manga Carta, claiming instead that this was no different from the PAYE system in which employers take tax directly out of employees pay cheques.
She said that the 17,000 people that owe tax are deliberately withholding the payments because they know HMRC does not have the resources to track them down. She also said the average figure for the amount owed was £5,800, but half of the debtors have £20,000 in savings whilst some have much more.
Steve Baker, Tory MP for Wycombe, used the words of Britain’s youngest ever Prime Minister, the William Pitt when he said “necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.” He also claimed that HMRC was demanding these sweeping new powers because they were “frustrated with a small number” of taxpayers.
But Ms Homer maintained that the proposals were reasonable and that independent oversight of the bank raids was not needed. She said: “This is not disputed tax, this is tax that is due, that people who are not subject to PAYE are choosing simply not to pay and they are creating an environment within which the normally very low collection cost of tax is made substantially higher by their action, in a way which in the vast majority of cases is wilful.
“I believe that for the taxpayer as a whole, it is right that we have sufficient powers to stop these limited numbers of people avoiding paying tax.”
Civil liberties campaigners remain concerned that granting a government department the right to empty someone’s bank account without any oversight sets a dangerous precedence. As previously reported on Breitbart London pressure groups like Big Brother Watch raised serious concerns about this proposal when it appeared in March’s budget.
At the time 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 people’s liberties they should not be exercised without a court’s approval.”