The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has warned that proposals to give HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) powers to "raid" money from taxpayers' bank accounts risk being unconstitutional.
ACCA said that the proposal is deeply concerning because HMRC would effectively be able to bypass the courts. At present, the measures HMRC uses to recover tax debts require court approval.
Were the plans to go ahead, HMRC could take a "smash and grab approach," said Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of tax at ACCA. He recommended that "some other form of review by an officer of the court should be considered as part of the safeguards in any power to access bank accounts." Roy-Chowdhury said the power must only be used where all appeal rights have been exhausted.
"Safeguards must be incorporated and demonstrably implemented to ensure that no further examples can arise of HMRC withdrawing funds from UK taxpayers' accounts without their knowledge or consent. HMRC must only have the narrowest of opportunities to use such a power so that it is only ever used on those who continually refuse to pay and yet can afford to. The powers must not be used on those who can't pay due to financial difficulties, such as families on low incomes or the self-employed."
ACCA has said, if the powers are granted, it will seek to work with HMRC to ensure that stringent safeguards are put in place.