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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2007, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Bank account plan for unpaid tax
HMRC office
Tax could be taken straight from the accounts of chronic defaulters
Money owed to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) could be taken automatically from the bank accounts of people who have not paid taxes, officials propose.

About 200,000 people are chased through the courts each year but the process is regarded as costly and bureaucratic.

The plan would allow HMRC to bypass the need to get a court order to seize money. It would be used against chronic defaulters as a last resort.

HMRC said its plans would be subject to much more consultation.

We've got to have safeguards to say that it's definitely owed and properly proceeded against
John Whiting

But critics say it could mean HMRC acting as judge, jury and executioner.

John Whiting, a tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the BBC News website safeguards would need to be put in place when someone came under suspicion.

"Are we certain that they do really owe this money? We've got to have safeguards to say that it's definitely owed and properly proceeded against.

"The taxpayer's got some rights of appeal because if you suddenly find some money disappearing from your bank account and it's a mistake, well, how do you get it back?"


Taxpayers have until the middle of September to respond to a public consultation on these proposals.

Last week, HMRC said high-profile tax evaders would be taken to court "within weeks" as part of its attack on people who have been hiding money in offshore bank accounts.

About 60,000 people have asked to take advantage of its recent offer to pay unpaid taxes, but with a penalty of just 10%, on these accounts.

A further 40,000 people suspected of being significant tax evaders are now set to be pursued vigorously by the Revenue.


The Revenue's suggestion for taking money direct from bank accounts will be the subject of further consultation.

But a spokesman said it was only fair that "it pursues the minority who delay payment for a significant time so that they do not gain an advantage over the compliant".

"The ideas floated arise out of earlier informal consultation or are recommendations from Parliament or the National Accounts Office," the spokesman added.

"They would apply to established tax debts once all the normal avenues for appeal had been exhausted, and after repeated requests for payment had been ignored."

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