Experts have called for something outlining taxpayer’s rights and
responsibilities for some time but recent events have seen those demands renewed
with far more vigour.
It’s difficult to see what the objections are. Simply put the bill, which
needn’t mean legislation, would set out taxpayers’ responsibilities, but more
importantly their rights.
With the tax system becoming ever more complex and HMRC seeking ever more
stringent powers, it seems only fair that taxpayers have their rights enshrined
in an unambiguous document so that the taxman knows exactly what its obligations
Last week HMRC was reported as having made errors in the affairs of at least
one million people, while looking for new powers to seize funds from bank
As Geoff and Diana Jones have found in their fight over Arctic Systems, HMRC
has a lot of money to throw at lawyers. A bill of rights, or taxpayer’s charter,
might very well give someone the legal weapon necessary to even up the sides in
instead of leaving stand off between taxpayers and HMRC hopelessly mismatched.
At the moment government shows little sign of warming to the idea. This may
be because it fears that, as in the US, a bill of rights could be used to limit
the size of the state by placing limits on a regime’s tax raising abilities.
This can be easily side stepped, if it is made clear at the outset what the
bill or charter is for. Indeed, we could write up a number of documents aimed at
While Gordon Brown is keen on a laying out the rights and responsibilities of
citizens, the reasons for failing to address the needs of taxpayers seem
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