HMRC Slams 'Absurd' Claims that It Will Raid Ordinary Britons Bank Accounts
HMRC Slams 'Absurd' Claims that It Will Raid Ordinary Britons Bank AccountsReuters

An HMRC official has told IBTimes UK that media coverage of claims that the taxman would be able to siphon cash from ordinary Britons' bank accounts is "disproportionate and absurd". The proposed law was aimed at "hardcore defaulters" and not the average person, the official added.

"The idea that we can just go into someone's account and take whatever we want because we think someone is procrastinating while paying their tax bill is absolutely and grossly absurd," said the official.

"The consultation paper clearly outlines how this is meant to help the ordinary taxpayer by rebalancing the process and cracking down on a group of hardcore defaulters who don't want to pay."

Under the proposed laws, the HMRC revealed in a consultation document that the process of "direct recovery" would allow it take money straight out of joint accounts if the holder had failed to act on four formal warnings requiring payment.

It said that if the new law came into force, it would immediately target 17,000 accounts.

People who owe tax authorities £1,000 (€1,223, $1,690) or more could see that money seized directly from their bank accounts. However, this could only happen provided there was £5,000 left in their accounts afterwards.

"The US, France and Germany, all have these powers and we would still be under close scrutiny over every seizure of cash. This law is meant to protect the ordinary taxpayer from picking up the tab from hardcore defaulters," said the official.

"We have made mistakes in the past but if you look at our consultation paper, it is all about protecting the taxpayer and putting safeguards in place."

Meanwhile, the Treasury said the new law would only be applied to those who have repeatedly failed to pay their taxes. However, an influential panel of politicians has voiced concerns.

"People should pay the right amount of tax. But HMRC does not always ask for the right amount," said Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP and chairman of the Treasury Select Committee.

"Some taxpayers may find money taken from their accounts that later should be paid back. That would be unacceptable."

A HMRC spokesperson told IBTimes UK: "Most people pay their taxes on time, but a minority do not, and some refuse to engage with us at all. It is wrong that this should hand an advantage to those who simply dodge their obligations, and is unfair on the vast majority who pay their taxes in full and on time.

"We are consulting on a new measure with appropriate safeguards to help level the playing field, and tackle those who have the means to pay but are choosing not to. These are people who have, on average, over £20,000 in their accounts, but are refusing to pay their debts.

"This will only affect a tiny number of debtors, whom we have contacted a minimum of four times to ask for payment."