The system, which allows serious tax offenders to confess their offences privately without the threat of criminal proceedings, is seen as an extremely cost-effective and efficient way of combating tax evasion in the UK.
But a recent Court of Appeal case between the Revenue and two brothers, Sewa Singh Gill and Paramjit Singh Gill, has thrown the procedure into doubt.
The court ruled in favour of the Revenue, but said the case should have been treated as a criminal offence, meaning both men should have had the right to silence and been read their rights.
As a result, the Revenue has cancelled all pending Hansard hearings while it implements changes arising from the court’s decision, leading to fears the process could be shelved.
But John Middleton, director of cost-cutting policy and compliance strategy at the Revenue, told Accountancy Age Hansard was here to stay.
‘I think it could strengthen Hansard and bring home how serious it could be if they don’t confess,’ he said. ‘I hope we’ll have some answers by the end of September.’ Hansard hearings are expected to continue in October.
Frank Haskew, head of the ICAEW tax faculty, feared the change could lead to accountants being left out. ‘It might send work to lawyers rather than accountants,’ he said. ‘The UK tax system has worked quite well on an informal basis. This is a move away from this to make it more adversarial.’
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