Advisers bemoan aggressive HMRC

When the Inland Revenue merged with Customs & Excise two years ago, the
department took offence at suggestions that the Revenue was set to take on the
strong-arm tactics of Customs.

Two years on and many are feeling that that is precisely what has happened.
ACCA recently released the findings of a member survey on the subject, which
reveals that 89% believe HM Revenue & Customs is more aggressive than the
Revenue had been.

Fresh evidence of an aggressive stance is emerging, too. The new powers
handed to HMRC under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which allows
the department to force advisers to answer questions on cases of suspected fraud
greater than £5,000, seem to signify a stepping up of Revenue aggression.

The government says such powers are likely to be used in cases of carousel
fraud and tax credits fraud, but advisers may wonder whether the Revenue will be
able to resist using them now that they are in place.

The tax authority insists it is being overblown. ‘Most of the tax offices
still have the same inspectors there were before. The department is large and it
will take a long time for it to merge fully,’ a source said.

An official spokesman for the department said: ‘We are working closely with
agent representatives to help create a customer-focused, driven organisation to
better cater for the diverse needs of all our customers. We have made great
strides, but there is a lot more to do. We look forward to addressing the needs
of our agent customers.

‘[The ACCA] survey is not a fair reflection of the positive feedback we have
received from agent customers on the excellent progress we have made over the
past year.’

Questions will remain, especially as some argue that a perceived increase in
aggression on avoidance and the fallout in terms of business complaints were key
factors in the departure of Sir David Varney from his role heading the merged

Whoever succeeds him will have a difficult task ahead in proving that the
Revenue has not become the hard-hitting, drug-busting agency with which it has

Related reading