The government has recently granted HMRC new powers to help itself to whatever is in your bank account.
Chancellor George Osborne recently announced as part of his 2014 Budget that the tax authority will be able to bypass any scrutiny or due process and take money directly from your account if they feel that it is necessary.
Previously, they had to have a court order and prove that you owed them money, or they would first have to take out insolvency or debt collection proceedings against you. Now, the burden of proof lies solely with the individual concerned, who will be forced to claw back the money from HMRC if they feel that the judgement was made in error.
Of course, the only realistic way for an individual to defend themselves in such circumstances would be to take HMRC to court, but by then they will have already helped themselves to the money in your account, leaving you with no money to pay a lawyer.
The law is frightfully similar to the powers afforded to the much-maligned IRS in America which has the same powers and has come under fire in many well-documented cases where families have been forced into homelessness after having their bank accounts raided by the IRS.
The IRS also has the power to freeze any assets or money attached to an individual or businesses name – meaning that even if you did have money left over to challenge them – you would not be allowed to access it. HMRC have the same powers.
But it has defended these new powers which it has awarded itself by saying that they can only be used once you’ve received a couple of letters and a phone call.
They also claim that this will only apply to people with more than £1,000 worth of debt and they are required to leave at least £5,000 in your account.
Once the money has been grabbed from your account, it is then put on hold for 14 days and you will then have to agree to a payment plan.
But its powers do not end there. It is also able to snatch money from you if it thinks that it may win a legal battle against you.
In other words, if you are in a dispute with them about how much money you owe, they can take the legal expenses out of your account on the proviso that they give it all back to you if you win.
What this means is that you can now face sanctions before a case has been proven against you. Not only does this break every single legal foundation that our current laws are based upon, it also sets a very dangerous precedent indeed, and represents a significant power grab from a government department that has just made itself less accountable.
(The bank account confiscation power is in Section 1.208 and the future confiscation power is in Section 1.200 and 1.201. You can access the full Budget document here.)
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