Finance Bill 2000: Investigations – Taxman gets more access rights.

The Inland Revenue is being given powers to obtain papers previously considered privileged from lawyers, accountants and other tax advisers, write our parliamentary staff. Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo said solicitors would be no more privileged than accountants in the protection afforded to information about advice given before an investigation into serious tax fraud got underway. She said: ‘We are talking about evidence that could demonstrate, at the start of an investigation, that a serious fraud had been committed. ‘The exception comes in once the legal proceedings have been started and people start to receive advice, because that advice would be privileged.’ She added: ‘If someone was alleged to have deliberately set out to evade a tax liability, any advice that he had received about its true extent could be evidence that evasion was his motive and that he understood what he did.’ Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs decided not to vote against new powers to order the production of evidence from third parties who might be constrained by law from handing them over voluntarily, to reduce the need for the Revenue to enter and search premises to seize papers from those not themselves suspected of the fraud.

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