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Taxpayers' rights 'must be clearly set out'

19 November 2008
Categories: News , Hardman Memorial Lecture , Taxpayers charter , Admin
Barrister warns against 'aspirational' charter

A new taxpayers' charter should be akin to a bill of rights, according to barrister Jonathan Schwarz of Temple Tax Chambers.

Mr Schwarz, who delivered this year's Hardman Memorial Lecture, which focused on HMRC powers, said he did not support the sort of 'aspirational' document alluded to in the first consultation on the proposed new charter.

'What we need is properly articulated rights,' he remarked, 'and there are enough gaps in the [UK tax] system to make that necessary'.

Mr Schwarz suggested that the current aim of the Government is to simply give taxpayers 'a warm feeling' about the Revenue, rather than providing 'real rights' in their dealings with the taxman.

He cited the previous taxpayers' charter of the late 80s/early 90s, which 'fizzled out' because it wasn't enshrined in law.

'Once we settle on real rights, they [will be] taken out of the political agenda. Anything else would be a mere code of conduct,' added Mr Schwarz, who earlier in the year urged professional tax bodies not to become involved in the charter consultation but instead call for an independent body to handle the introduction of taxpayers' rights.

He said he would be confident in the veracity of taxpayers' rights if 'they were properly endorsed by Parliament'.

Mr Schwarz went on to question the aims of the consultation on the proposed new charter: A New Charter for HMRC and its Customers.

This, he claimed, is not aiming for a charter for taxpayers but for all people with whom the Revenue deals, including smugglers ('criminals') and tax credit recipients ('social credit beneficiaries').

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