Concern over “man in the pub” caught under tax advice law

Advisers are warning that the “man down the pub” could be fined for
discussing tax planning, under draft legislation proposals from the taxman.

The “Working with Tax Agents: the next stage” draft legislation could see any
individual who give anyone tax advice that leads to a tax loss to the Treasury
as guilty of a new offence of deliberate wrongdoing, which carries a fine of
between £1,500 to £50,000.

Nichola Ross Martin, MD of,
warned that organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, or the tax media
industry would have to stop providing advice around tax issues.

“The Government’s proposals are clearly an attack on the fundamental right to
freedom of speech,” said Ross Martin.

“This is designed to tackle fraud by tax advisers, but HMRC refuses to
release details of the number of agents that it believes are at fault. It refers
to them as ‘the minority’ and suggested the numbers are in single figures. These
new measures are completely out of proportion to the perceived threat.”

John Whiting, head of tax policy at the
CIoT, said
he was concerned at the implications of the draft legislation.

“As I read it, you or anyone saying’ invest in an ISA and save money’ could
technically come under the wrongdoing [rules],” said Whiting.

“The CIoT is totally supportive of HMRC getting at fraudulent tax agents, but
this opens everybody up. I’m sure it’s not [HMRC’s] intention but it’s difficult
to read it any other way.”

Further reading:

HMRC’s draft legislation here

Related reading