Bill of rights gets thumbs up

Pressure is growing for a taxpayer’s bill of rights to define the treatment
and responsibilities of taxpayers with the newly merged tax authorities.

As part of the consultation into HM Revenue & Custom’s new powers, tax
advisers responded with calls to introduce a formal bill of rights.

At the Chartered Institute of Taxation debate this month, politicians from
opposition parties voiced interest in the idea.

Both Philip Hammond, Conservative shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, and
Vincent Cable, Liberal Democrat shadow Treasury spokesman, said they would be
interested in investigating it, although Cable added: ‘Many of the abuses of the
HMRC relate not to rules, but to applying the rules in a completely mechanical

Cable mentioned inheritance tax as being a particular risk in that sense,
where the HMRC is required to extract often large sums from those recently
bereaved. A straw poll of attendees at the debate revealed widespread support
for a bill of rights.

Tax institutes are currently looking at ways of defining HMRC’s powers more
closely. ICAS has suggested that a general anti-avoidance rule might be worth
discussing, in the light of the HMRC’s attack on tax avoidance.

A GAAR is not a concept, however, that tax advisers would widely support.
John Whiting of PricewaterhouseCoopers said at the time of ICAS’s announcement
that it might be ‘time to start talking about a GAAR’, but that he would not
personally favour one at present.

A general anti-avoidance rule would see advisers clear tax-planning schemes
with HMRC before implementation. At present, they only have to disclose them
once implemented.

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