Under the terms of the 2008 Finance Bill, HM Revenue & Customs appear to have been given enhanced entry powers to the homes of taxpayers.
Whilst Clause 108 states that “the normal rule will be that the occupier of the premises must be given 7 day notice of the visit, instead of only 24 hours as required in the Bill,” the Bill continues that a shorter notice period or no notice at all may apply where this is agreed with the occupier or approved by an authorised officer of the Revenue. This last sentence suggests that in many ways, the Inland Revenue have now been given more power than the police. For many people running their businesses from bedrooms at home, tax inspectors could demand instant access and face the prospect of officials rummaging through their things.
Whilst this may appear as a further example of “stealth legislation”, the bad news is that certain parts of HMRC, particularly VAT inspectors, have always had access on demand. However spreading that authority to the Inland Revenue is a daunting prospect.
We will have to wait and see the extent to which the friendly local tax inspector starts dropping in unannounced on unsuspecting tax payers, and one has to hope the authority will be used appropriately. Nevertheless, these increased powers should ring alarm bells for all of us.