I was delighted to see the Criminal Justice and Police Bill receive Royal Assent on Friday. This important piece of legislation will do much to combat criminal activity and anti-social behaviour.
It was also gratifying to see government agree to drop provisions giving the tax authorities powers of disclosure to the police and other law enforcement agencies for criminal investigation. This was an issue the ICAEW Tax Faculty highlighted in its representations on behalf of the profession.
In the UK there is a very high degree of voluntary compliance with tax obligations. We believe that one of the most significant factors driving this climate of compliance is the tax authorities’ obligation of confidentiality.
Of course, those who commit serious criminal offences should not be able to hide. Often, however, there may be real doubt as to whether certain conduct constitutes a criminal offence.
Safeguards are needed, therefore, to ensure information is not disclosed unless there is genuine cause for concern.
Peter Bickley, technical manager, ICAEW Tax Faculty
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