Profession demands bill of rights to curtail taxman

UK tax practitioners have called for a bill of rights defining the rights and
responsibilities of taxpayers.

Responding to a consultation on the new powers of Revenue & Customs, tax
advisers from the ICAEW, CIOT and PricewaterhouseCoopers have argued for a
document outlining all taxpayers’ rights in relation to the government’s
revenue-raising powers.

‘Serious consideration should be given to introducing a taxpayers’ bill of
rights, to set out the key rights and reciprocal obligations of taxpayers. Such
a document exists in many jurisdictions and would take forward the now defunct
taxpayers’ charter in this country,’ said John Whiting, tax partner at PwC.

Revenue & Customs launched a consultation on the extent of its powers
earlier this year, amid fears within the accountancy profession that the
draconian powers of Customs & Excise would allow the Revenue to pursue
individuals with disproportionate penalties and investigative zeal.

In response to the consultation, the ICAEW said: ‘The OECD has recommended
that all its member states should have a charter or bill of rights to safeguard
the taxpayer. It is difficult to see how the UK could do other than act on the
OECD’s recommendation.’

The institute added that taxpayers should be ‘told why an enquiry or
investigation is being instigated into their tax or tax credits affairs’.

Anne Redston, chair of the personal tax committee at the CIOT, said it too
had called for a bill of rights. She said that one area of concern was the
government’s eagerness for its departments to share information, and defining
its powers would be useful in that context.

Some respondents to the consultation voiced fears that any changes could be
rushed. The ICAEW said: ‘We are concerned that there may not be adequate time
for formal consultation on the detailed proposals which will be published later
this year.’

The consultation on Revenue & Customs’ powers concluded last week. It is
anticipated that the Revenue will produce more formal proposals later this year.

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