AIA OPPOSE HMRC’S PROPOSAL TO SEEK GREATER POWER TO ACCESS BANK ACCOUNTS WITHOUT WARNING

A new policy document published online this week reveals how HMRC plan to seek new powers which will enable them to access bank accounts without the holders being informed.

The new policy will allow HMRC to undertake secret investigations, with carte blanche to look into all aspects of an individuals finances, without having to ask permission in order to identify whether they are paying the right amount of tax.

Under existing rules, banks and other financial institutions are permitted to notify their customers if tax officials request access to their bank account information.

This new overly aggressive approach comes as HMRC looks to narrow its £33 billion tax shortfall by collecting more tax in a quicker and more efficient manner.

Currently, if you do not give consent for HMRC to access your financial records, officials need to seek permission from an independent tribunal, a process which officials say is too bureaucratic and uses up a ‘disproportionate’ amount of resources.

Foreign governments have also complained that the process is overly ‘onerous’, so much so that they are discouraged from making a request for information when investigating someone with a connection to the UK.

The new proposal was discussed at length during the monthly AIA council meeting. Following the meeting AIA President, Les Bradley said: “We fully support HMRC in looking at new approaches to crack down on tax evasion, however on this occasion the AIA on behalf of our members cannot with a clear conscience agree with the course of action set out in the new proposal. A line in the sand has been crossed with this big brother style approach.

“Removing the requirement for an independent tribunal in essence means that taxpayers may not even be aware of the information request on their finances. If this goes ahead we must ask the question ‘what has happened to transparency?’

“AIA are strongly opposed to this new aggressive power, which offers little protection for taxpayers, and urge HMRC to consider alternative approaches in more detail before the consultation ends on 2 October 2018.”