Tax: Calls for consumer rights if Revenue raids accounts of late payers

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The Independent Online

Stringent safeguards will be needed to protect consumers if the taxman is allowed to raid bank accounts for overdue money without recourse to a court order, critics have warned.

Last week's disclosure that Revenue & Customs officials were looking at a scheme that would let them swoop on the most errant taxpayers has been met with calls for caution from accountants. For example, individuals would need a clear route for redress in the event of a case of mistaken identity, said John Whiting of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Separately, people could find the taxman clawing back assets that are jointly owned. It was particularly important to "have safeguards to say the money's definitely owed [by the individual]", he stressed.

An estimated 200,000 workers don't pay their tax and are pursued through the courts each year. However, this has become a costly and laborious process and regularly involves lengthy court cases, adjournments and bailiff orders.

The new rules would also allow the taxman to recover debts in the event of a sale of a property.

Revenue & Customs wants to find out what the public thinks of the idea, and has opened a consultation until the middle of September. Views for and against can be given at

So far, around 60,000 people with overseas assets, mainly cash in offshore banks, have come forward to take advantage of a recent offer to settle unpaid taxes with a penalty of just 10 per cent.

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