New Customs program to combat tax evasion

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Though met with scepticism from experts, Richard Broadbent’s comments came as part of a frank assessment of work done by Customs delivered at the annual ICAEW tax faculty Hardman Memorial Lecture.

Broadbent said an accreditation program could include ‘gold card, silver card and green card’ status for practising tax advisors and although controversial, is ‘where we [Customs and Excise] need to go.’

But the news did not meet with a warm welcome. ‘The institute wouldn’t want to see accreditation if it meant increased costs on us which we would obviously have to pass on,’ said Frank Haskew, senior technical manager of the ICAEW tax faculty.

‘There’s a risk that we would end up policing it,’ he added. ‘We don’t do Customs’ due-diligence for them.’

John Whiting, tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that such a program would be ‘good to look at’ but questioned the lack of detail in Broadbent’s comments.

‘Does he mean, therefore, that the big firms get gold cards, the medium firms get silver and the small firms get green. Is that fair?’ he asked, before adding that he would need to know a lot more about the scheme.

Broadbent floated accreditation as one way of helping his department’s risk management approach to tax collection and also pointed out areas where Customs needs to improve.

He described the department as being over-complex, reactive rather than strategic and insular. He claims these problems are well on the way to being solved but said there are still ‘some internal aspects to work on.’

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