NEW laws to force tax dodgers to pay up could see innocent people chased for money they don’t owe, an accountancy boss warns.
Paul Aplin, a tax partner at Taunton-based A.C. Mole & Sons, says there could be serious errors if HM Revenue and Customs is given powers to raid the bank accounts of anyone not paying their tax debts.
Mr Aplin, chairman of the Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ tax faculty technical committee, supports HMRC chasing debts, but is worried as he has seen cases of HMRC chasing the wrong amount.
He said: “A couple of years ago I received a letter at home threatening a visit to mark my goods for auction as I had ignored correspondence about a tax debt. I didn’t actually have a tax debt and, fortunately, I knew what to do next because of my job, but what if I hadn’t?”
Consultation is taking place on measures to allow HMRC to take money from the bank accounts of debtors owing over £1,000 who have ignored requests to pay.
HMRC expects to use the power against around 17,000 people annually.
The power also extends to situations where there is an estimated liability after someone fails to file a tax return and ignores HMRC’s chasing letters.
Mr Aplin added: “My issue isn’t with HMRC collecting tax that’s due from people and businesses that know they owe the tax but deliberately don’t pay.
“It would be completely unfair to the vast majority who do pay what they owe if others were allowed to get away with flouting the rules.
“My issue is that HMRC sometimes makes mistakes and the consequences of a mistake here could be very serious.
“These are things I hope MPs will be keen to debate and I’m pleased the House of Commons Treasury Committee has already voiced concerns over the potential for mistakes.
“The new measures are scheduled for the 2015 Finance Bill, so there’s still time to do something about them.”
l There’s more from Paul Aplin on page 35.