A new consultation launched recently by HMRC asks if the current information powers from the 1970's and those provided in new acts enabled since 2008 could be improved.
Current Schedule 36 rules mean the Taxman requires permission to access data and must provide notice. The consultation paperwork particularly takes aim at whether notification should be given to the taxpayer when accessing data including banking information, bank statements, transaction information and legal data including ownership of accounts.
The Taxman argues that when compared to other economically similar countries the UK has a more difficult process to gather this information including requiring permission from a tribunal including providing notice to either the taxpayer or third party the data is requested from.
Going forward HMRC believes it would be more efficient to not have to provide notification where they believe it could cause deliberate delays or possible movement of assets - prejudicing the tax assessment. No notification would be provided and there would be no right of appeal to the data access. The third party having customer data accessed would be legally prevented from notifying their customer that the Taxman requested and received access to their private data.
These powers are being sought for extension not just for tax assessment but also for debt collection purposes and other, as of yet unnamed, functions.
The same rules would apply not only to banks and building societies, but solicitors, accountants, estate agents and more.
At the moment these proposals are just at the consultation stage, stage 1 of 5 before implementation, and the current request for responses from stakeholders will not conclude until October 2018.
The full consultation document is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/724048/Amending_HMRC_s_Civil_Information_Powers_consultation_document.pdf