MPs raise serious concerns over HMRC debt recovery powers

THE WIDE-RANGING POWERS afforded to HM Revenue & Customs have been censured by MPs in the Treasury Select Committee.

In particular, the committee echoed the acute concern held by practitioners over the possibility of mistakes occurring in debt recovery, especially given the department’s history of errors.

In March’s Budget, the chancellor proposed “modern powers” allowing the taxman to recover tax directly from debtors’ bank and building society accounts, including ISAs.

The Budget document showed the powers will focus on those owing at least £1,000 and have been “contacted multiple times” by HMRC to pay. It added “a single aggregate of £5,000 will be left across all accounts, including ISAs, after the debt is recovered”.

“This policy is highly dependent on HMRC’s ability accurately to determine which taxpayers owe money and what amounts they owe, an ability not always demonstrated in the past,” said committee chairman Andrew Tyrie (pictured).

“Incorrectly collecting money will result in serious detriment to taxpayers.”

The legality of the powers is in doubt, too with committee member and Conservative MP Mark Garnier accusing HMRC of acting as “judge and jury”.

“Giving HMRC this power without some form of prior independent oversight – for example by a new ombudsman or tribunal, or through the courts – would be wholly unacceptable,” the committee said in its report.

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