The taxman is to be given ‘shocking’ new powers to trawl bank accounts without the holders being told.
A policy document, published quietly online this week, reveals HMRC wants to be able to keep secret investigations into whether someone is paying the right amount of tax.
Under existing rules, banks and other financial institutions are permitted to notify their customers if tax officials demand access to their bank statements and other financial information.
The HRMC is being given new powers to trawl bank accounts without the owners being told. Pictured a sign outside a Lloyds bank.
But as part of a bonfire of safeguards, in future the taxman will be able to draw a veil of secrecy over its investigations.
Last night critics condemned the move – which is part of an aggressive tax crackdown – saying it is a breach of privacy.
James Daley, the managing director of Fairer Finance, said: ‘The system we have got contains essential protections for taxpayers’ privacy and rights. The idea that HMRC can request information from people’s bank, from state agents and other third parties without notifying the individual is shocking.
‘They are bypassing checks and balances that are there to protect people. Of course we want to crack down on people who aren’t paying their taxes but there has to be a balance between that and breaching privacy. This can’t be a lazy shortcut for the taxman.’
The new powers relate to so-called information orders, used to check that someone is paying the right amount of income, capital gains tax, corporation tax and VAT.