Press Release: HMRC's raid on private bank accounts is an assault on the rule of law

Commenting on the Chancellor's plan to allow HMRC to seize owed taxes from private bank accounts, Director of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr Eamonn Butler, said: "Plans to allow HMRC to take money directly from the accounts of tax delinquents are a fundamental assault on the rule of law.

"Next year is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, but the basic civil protections it gave citizens against arbitrary power are being systematically eroded. Governments have become elected dictatorships.

"HMRC can already decide that someone owes tax that they have deliberately 'avoided' – even if they have complied with every tax law. This is arbitrary power that we cannot safely entrust to any official. Reinforcing that power with further powers of confiscation – in the absence of any magistrate or court decision – is even more dangerous.

"Even fair-minded officials make mistakes. Worse, the new plan passes the burden of proof – and the costs of proving it – from the authorities to the citizen. That is contrary to the fundamental principle that people are innocent until proven guilty.

"Perhaps 17,000 people will be affected by this each year. Many of them will, of course, be people who are completely innocent and the subject of official mistakes. Some will see their businesses ruined, and their employees losing their jobs, because of officials arbitrarily raiding their accounts. Others, worryingly will be people who the authorities decide to bully and make an 'example' of just because they are well known."

For further comment or to arrange an interview, contact Kate Andrews, Communications Manager, at kate@adamsmith.org / 07584 778 207.

The Adam Smith Institute is an independent libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.