HMRC accused of ‘bully-boy’ tactics

HM Revenue and Customs has been accused of scare tactics by an accountant, as the taxman writes to numerous taxpayers to see why the effective rate of tax is less than anticipated.

Rather than check tax returns to see why the effective rate of tax is less than anticipated, Mike Down, who heads up the Baker Tilly tax risk and investigation management team, says HMRC seems to have simply issued a string of blanket letters.

In each case, Mr Down, a former tax inspector, said a quick check of the tax return would have shown HMRC why the effective rate was lower than the general percentage (whatever that is) which HMRC expected it to be.

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However when asked to comment on Mr Down’s accusation of ‘bully-boy tactics’, a HMRC spokesman said the tax office was only issuing 1,000 letters in total and: “We are committed to making it easy for our customers to get their tax right.

“We are issuing letters as part of a trial to help individuals identify any mistakes they may have made on their self assessment return.

“We want to understand whether this approach will help individuals complete their self assessment returns correctly. If a customer is content that their return is accurate then they do not need to do any thing. Anyone who needs help is welcome to get in touch with us.”

Mr Down said HMRC have “arrogantly” concluded the letters with a paragraph that reads “Paying the right amount of tax is important as it helps to pay for the public services that we all rely on. Not paying the right amount of tax has serious consequences for these services.”

Mr Down said: “HMRC will no doubt claim that campaigns such as this help to encourage tax dodgers to come forward and own up to irregularities.

“While this may indeed be true in a minority of cases, it cannot be right that HMRC is using such scare tactics by bothering a whole tranche of innocent taxpayers who have fully met all their obligations by doing exactly what HMRC requires by completing their tax returns correctly.

“Surely the public at large has a right to expect HMRC to have at least carried out some basic checks on the information it holds before issuing such bully-boy standard letters?”