Euro Act drives Customs new approach

Tax experts say the Act is behind changes to rules to ‘search and seizure’ hearings, and to Customs & Excise new conciliatory approach to VAT investigations.

Ian Mills, tax partner at Pannell Kerr Forster, pointed to changes in the ‘search and seizure’ procedure as evidence of influence of the Human Rights Act.

Under the Taxes Management Act, taxpayers and their agents are denied the right to attend application hearings for search and seizure orders.

Mills said: ‘This could be regarded as prejudicing the human rights of the taxpayer. One would assume that where legally the taxpayer is affected, he would be allowed to attend the hearing.’

But under new powers, introduced under the Finance Act 2000, the taxpayer, or his agent, will have the right of attendance at any such hearing. A key element of the new Act is the right to a fair trial.

PKF also argued that the new VAT investigation process could have been influenced by the new Act. Currently, cases involving more than £75,000 are liable for criminal prosecution, those below would involve civil proceedings.

Phil Jeffrey, PKF’s VAT expert, said: ‘This is an arbitary figure, and in reality many cases were not being prosecuted. Often it means that someone in one part of the country was prosecuted while someone elsewhere would not be.’

Customs ‘conciliatory’ approach

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