The legislation is expected to be rushed through parliament as part of a number of government measures to crackdown on money laundering and the use of the financial system to fund terrorist activities.
These new powers would put the Revenue in an extremely strong position, given its access to information about 32 million taxpayers and more than a million companies.
Currently the government department can only disclose financial information relating to murder and treason investigations, but this could all change under the new legislation.
But is likely to be met with strong opposition from tax experts and civil liberties groups who have already voiced their disapproval of a similar information disclosure initiative included in the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, which received royal assent in May.
Francesca Lagerberg, tax expert at the ICAEW’s tax faculty has warned that such legislation should not be rushed through, but be given a ‘public airing’, while John Gwyer, a tax partner at PKF said it would infringe on human rights.
In other legislative developments, the government also announced plans to clamp down on bureau de changes, considered prime targets for money laundering with Pounds 3bn to 4bn leaving the country through such outlets.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service has already warned the government on the role of such organisations in criminal activity and terrorism. According to the NCIS, only a small number of these offices submit legitimate reports on their activities, as required under law.
New measures will include a new registration regime for all bureaux and an agreement to abide by a new code of practice.
And a final version Proceeds of Crime Bill which increases the government’s powers against money laundering and make it easier for authorities to recover the proceeds of crime and drugs, is expected later this month.
In addition, the Treasury has put its plans to offer for tax breaks for offshore oil companies and drilling equipment industry are being put on hold as chancellor Gordon Brown considers how to pay for the ‘war’ against international terrorism and steps to stave off a recession.
Senior aides have confirmed they are on a hit list of potential cuts being studied by the chancellor as preparations continue to deal with Osama bin Laden and his terror organisation.
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