Taxman’s assurance over cash seizures

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Extra safeguards are to be placed around the taxman’s controversial new powers to seize money directly from people’s bank accounts, the Government has announced.

The Government has been consulting on plans to enable HM Revenue and Customs to recover cash straight from bank and building society accounts, including joint accounts and Isas, belonging to those who refuse to settle tax or tax credit debts.

It said all debtors considered for this process will get a face-to-face visit from an HMRC officer to give them the chance to challenge and settle their affairs.

Those who pay up in full or agree to a repayment plan will not go through the process of having money clawed from their bank account.

The visits will also help HMRC officers identify people who are potentially vulnerable and offer them support. A specialist unit will be set up to deal with cases involving vulnerable people and a dedicated helpline will be set up to help people discuss any direct action to recover their debts.

Debtors who refuse to respond to correspondence from the taxman will also see their account put on hold for 30 days, giving them time to arrange payment or object, before any money is taken. This is an extension on the Government’s previous plans, which would have involved putting the account on hold for 14 days before money was taken out.

People will also be able to appeal against HMRC’s decision to a County Court on specified grounds, such as hardship.

David Gauke, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “We’re strengthening the guarantees we can offer taxpayers that the powers will only be used when debtors have consistently refused to talk to HMRC and settle their debts, and their use will be subject to the toughest scrutiny and oversight possible.”