‘Heavy-handed’ taxman accepts criticism

THE TAXMAN has accepted that it was heavy-handed in letters sent to taxpayers earlier this year.

Accountancy Age broke the story this year that HM Revenue & Customs had been sending letters to taxpayers that threatened to auction goods unless the taxpayer took action. However, in many of these cases, the taxpayer owed no money. The Treasury Select Committee, chaired by Andrew Tyrie (pictured), picked up on this story and criticised HMRC for its heavy-handed approach.

In its response to the committee’s report, HMRC it accepts the criticism. “In some cases earlier in 2011, letters were sent which were inappropriate to the circumstances to a number of individual customers. The department has in each instance apologised for its mistake and has gone on to improve its quality assurance processes and the wording of the letters.”

Richard Mannion, national tax director at Smith & Williamson, said: “There is clearly a fine balance between chasing recalcitrant taxpayers vigorously and shooting the innocent before asking questions. Bearing in mind that the response is written in Civil Service language this is about as close as it gets to saying ‘sorry – we got this wrong’.”

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