Taxes will have to rise unless officials are given new powers to raid people’s bank accounts, David Cameron has said.
The Treasury select committee warned that allowing HM Revenue and Customs to remove cash from bank accounts without court orders is “very concerning” because of its history of mistakes.
The committee said that taxpayers could suffer “serious detriment” if officials are able, either by mistake or through an “abuse” of power, to take money from people who have done no wrong.
Mr Cameron yesterday claimed that the alternative was to “put up taxes”. He told Sky News: “We have a choice here. If we don’t collect taxes properly and make sure people pay their taxes properly we look at the problems of having to raise tax rates. I don’t want to do that, so I support the changes the Chancellor set out in the Budget which is to really say that not paying your taxes is not acceptable.
“It is very clear that they can only do this if there is a debt of over £1,000, they can only do it if there’s £5,000 or more in the account after this has been completed. The general principle – do we want to pursue every avenue of making people pay their taxes they are meant to pay before we put up taxes, because that’s the alternative – absolutely, yes we do.”
The policy yesterday faced further criticism from chartered accountants, who said that money should only be taken from people’s accounts with their agreement or a court order.
ICAEW, the body representing accountants, said that there is “considerable concern” among its members about the measures, which could be open to “mistakes and misuse”.
Under the planned new measures, tax officials will have an automatic power to take money from a bank account when the holder has failed to act on four formal warnings requiring payment.
Currently officials can only remove money in this way with the permission of a magistrate or judge.
The Treasury insists that safeguards will ensure that the new power is only used against those who have repeatedly refused to pay their taxes.
But the MPs say in their report: “The ability directly to have access to millions of taxpayers’ bank accounts raises concerns about the risk of fraud and error.
“This policy is highly dependent on HMRC’s ability accurately to determine which taxpayers owe money and what amounts they owe, an ability not always demonstrated in the past. Incorrectly collecting money will result in serious detriment to taxpayers.” The Revenue has faced repeated criticism over the accuracy of its tax records and its handling of sensitive personal data.
2013-2014 tax expenditure in the UK:
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