A Plea to Help Darren – HMRC Powers to Raid Bank Accounts



Darren is a mythical former Inland Revenue man.  He worked in the local Tax District and was someone’s nephew or cousin or husband.  He was the man you thought of when the Inland Revenue (as all organisations do) made a mistake.  Your view was “Yes, it’s wrong, but Darren is not nasty.  Misguided sometimes, but he’s ok.  It will be sorted out fairly”.

This blog is a campaign to keep Darren safe from being bought a long Government mac and turned (against his nature) into a quasi Gestapo imposer of penalties and seizure of personal funds with no appeal for the taxpayer.

I am grateful to my loyal clients and the support given over 20 years of practice as Eaves and Co, but sometimes, I peruse my debtors list and wish that some would pay quicker.  I am sure many other business men think the same!  Perhaps, even HM Revenue and Customs?  Having said that and even knowing the hassle it takes to make a County Court claim it has never crossed my mind that I should have the right to raid a client’s bank account!  Surely that would be wrong in principle, because, by definition, any dispute would not have been fully resolved.

Quite apart from it being wrong in principle, I am absolutely certain that HMRC (like any other organisation) will make mistakes (see recent press regarding private debt collectors).  I am not saying they will do it on a vast scale, but publicity recently on tax credit debts and prior PAYE errors, suggests that mistakes can and will happen.

MPs, suppose you vote for the measure and then one of your constituents loses his business/marriage/health/commits suicide because of a raid on his wife’s account, which then leads to job losses…

Are these HMRC powers necessary or proportionate?  I think not, and commend the Taxation Articles  (May 29) “Just Say No” and “Departmental raid on the downtrodden”.

Wise HMRC personnel ought to campaign against taking too much power as well.  Adverse publicity caused by a bad case or cases (which statistically must be likely to happen) must surely have a much worse impact on overall compliance than any marginal benefit through acting to curtail current appeal rights.  The publicity contrast on the apparent abuse of power in that situation would be easy and profound.

I liked HM Inland Revenue.  They were civilised, sophisticated and well trained.  (I did used to work for them!)  I was nervous of HM Customs and Excise who seemed to be (I generalise) trained to hide behind rocks, shoot people and indulge in intimate body cavity searches – probably essential, but not a subject for normal, civilised commerce.  Then they merged and were given lots of new powers, responsibilities and centralised computer projects.

From having a foothold in every town through local Tax Districts (systematically closed some time ago) we now learn that even the centralised Help centres are to be closed down.  Inevitably, this will make HMRC appear more remote.  I think this is bad for the taxpayer, the country and indeed HMRC.

It is brought about by ‘wrong thinking’ in misnaming taxpayers as ‘customers’.  Sensible business strategies may focus on the 80-90% of core customers to make a business successful.  (Tesco are unlikely to offer tailor made Purdey shotguns at the end of a frozen food aisle).  However, HMRC has to work for all taxpayers, even those in unusual circumstances.  This is not easy, but having worked with people in various European jurisdictions my view is the general level of compliance in the UK is significantly higher than many other European states.  This is a huge benefit to society as a whole, but it is a tender beast, surviving through the public view of perceived fairness of action and local involvement.

Please do not turn Darren into a nasty man with a long dark mac raiding personal bank accounts.  HMRC do not need more powers.  They need more trained personnel to enforce existing powers consistently and fairly.

Give Darren more friends not powers!