Mass opposition to HMRC’s disclosure changes as a head

Tax advisers have never cared much for the disclosure regime, the HM Revenue
& Customs tool that obliges tax folk to disclose all their tax ploys to the
taxman as soon as they have been devised.

Plans to bolster the regime further will make it even less popular with the
industry, and advisers are already sharpening their swords for what promises to
be an explosive consultation on the disclosure regime changes.

One of the major irritants for advisers is the
HMRC proposal that all disclosure regime
guidance should be implemented.

The new powers will see HMRC audit disclosure regime compliance. For advisers
to obtain a clean audit they will have to show that they have followed all HMRC
guidance when making tax planning disclosures.

Experts are already outraged by this move, which they claim is tantamount to
given HMRC the power to implement rules that have the force of law by simply
issuing a press release.

‘The implication is that HMRC can suddenly amend disclosure regime guidance
but still require advisers to take account of the change. This is not
acceptable. If they want something to be law then they should put it in the
law,’ said Bill Dodwell, corporate tax partner at

As vociferous as the complaints against the details of the disclosure regime
may be, it is hard to fault the reasoning behind HMRC’s move to beef up its
disclosure powers. Some tax advisers have even conceded that a strengthening was

As things stand HMRC currently has no
powers to investigate advisers who are suspected of not complying with the
regime, a fact that a band of around 100 aggressive firms have taken advantage

Chris Tailby, director of the anti-avoidance group at HMRC, has confirmed
that such firms have been happy to thumb their noses at HMRC and tell inspectors
asking for disclosures ‘go away’.

This is obviously an unacceptable situation, both for HMRC and the tax
advisers who are playing ball and complying with the disclosure regime.

The challenge facing HMRC will be to bring the renegades to heel without
invoking the ire of the compliant majority. It is going to be a difficult
balance to achieve.

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