HMRC are seeking additional powers to take money directly from individuals’ bank accounts. If approved by parliament, which is by no means certain, it will be in force in a year’s time.
Under the new finance bill, which will become law in the next few weeks, HMRC have gained new powers to demand payment now for tax bills still in dispute.
About 33,000 people who invested in tax avoidance schemes will be affected by the demand for payment of disputed tax bills. Among them are footballer David Beckham and business leaders such as Centrica chief Sam Laidlaw, who will be asked to pay the disputed tax within 90 days of receiving a letter. However they may get their money back if HMRC ultimately loses legal arguments, but in the meantime, the money will be in the Exchequer rather than in their pockets.
The government hopes the new rules and the inability to defer tax payment for years will make these schemes less attractive. A spokesman for HMRC described the new powers as a “game changer” in the battle against tax avoidance.