Safeguards Against HMRC Taking Money From Your Bank

Safeguards Against HMRC Taking Money From Your Bank

24 November 2014

The Government has watered down controversial plans that give HMRC the power to raid taxpayers’ bank accounts in order to settle unpaid debts.

The new powers were part of George Osborne’s Budget in March to recoup tax from 17,000 “recalcitrant debtors” who owe £1,000 or more, as reported in the Daily Telegraph.

At the time it was announced that the Government would "modernise and strengthen" the taxman's ability to collect debts by allowing "direct recovery" from bank and building society accounts, including Isas. The move was met with fierce criticism from MPs and tax accountants.

Accountants have expressed concerns that HMRC could not be trusted with the new powers due to the amount of mistakes the Revenue has made in the past when handling self-assessment tax returns.

Following several months of consultation, some of the final new rules have been watered down to assuage fears that HMRC would help itself to the accounts of the innocent.

If you owe £1,000, your bank account could be raided…

But this will happen only if you have over £5,000 across your bank and savings accounts.

This proposal has not been watered down, with HMRC today confirming that it will leave a minimum of £5,000 across debtors’ bank and building society accounts. But this also includes any Isas held either as cash or a stocks and shares Isa, or other investments. It is unclear how the taxman will be able to check where someone is holding their money.

HMRC tax inspectors can no longer ask banks to hand over 12 months of data on an individual’s account history. This power has been blocked by the Government.

A spokesman for HMRC said: “We take money from any account – including any type of Isa – it does not matter where they are held. The people we are targeting will have had plenty of warning and time to settle their affairs.”

The "watered down" proposals

HMRC said there plenty of “safeguards” in place to ensure the measures are only aimed at debtors who are refusing to pay what they owe. These safeguards are:

1) An officer from the taxman has met you face-to-face. This will give taxpayers a chance to challenge and settle their affairs.

2) You have had a chance to appeal. This can be done in the face-to-face meeting or via the taxman’s helpline.

3) Taken your case to a County Court. Debtors can appeal against HMRC’s decision to a County Court on specified grounds, including hardship and third party rights

4) 30 days notice has been given. Initially HMRC had planned to dip into bank accounts within 14 days but this has now been extended.

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