When ‘Taxpayer Safeguards and the Rule of Law’ by Robin Williamson was chosen as the ICPA book of the month by Ray Chidell of Claritax Books. I knew that this was one book I simply had to read, writes Tony Margaritelli.
It goes without saying that in these most strange of times the money tree in Number 11 has been shaken vigorously for many valid reasons. But in the coming years, with a contracting economy, significant job losses and the supposed ‘new normal’, the pressure on HMRC to ensure the tree is replenished will be enormous.
Already we are seeing very strong language being used to denounce any perceived occurrence of businesses or people “not paying their due”, and we can see from a seriously watered down Taxpayer Charter how HMRC are emboldened (and for many of them the inevitable gong is looking a certainty).
I knew this book would be important for all accountants in practice as soon as I read in the preface: “In the last few years since the conclusion of the Powers Review, there has been a growing sense of unease at the direction that legislation prescribing the powers of HMRC have been taking, and a feeling that the balance may have tilted too far in favour of the Exchequer at the expense of safeguards for taxpayers”.
In eight chapters Williamson covers all the events that we are likely to encounter for our clients: information and inspection powers; assessments and self-assessment; main penalties and their remedies; appeals, reviews and settlements; and, of course tax, the rule of law. The author sets out HMRC’s available powers, then gives the detail about those powers and, finally, what safeguards and rights are available ending in the possible final invocation – namely, the rule of law.
Looking at the section on the rule of law, Williamson quotes Adam Smith from 1776 showing quite clearly matters that still dominate today. He writes: “The tax which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain, not arbitrary. The time of payment, the manner of payment, the quantity to be paid, ought all to be clear and plain to the contributor, and to every other person.” As our Tax Code has become “notoriously voluminous and complex” this has become more difficult to achieve with any form of certainty for all parties.
This is a detailed tax book – it’s not Harry Potter – and for a GP accountant such as myself I can only take so much in one sitting, as it were. But that’s fine – I envisage this book being delved into whenever circumstances arise, where HMRC are penalising a client and not just taking the tax that is due, for whatever reason and based on whatever power. On that basis it should be a sure fire best-seller. It is available from Claritax Books: buy it and keep it handy, because I’m certain that in no time at all it will become a well-thumbed and highlighted book that will help ensure that your clients don’t become money tree conservationists.
• Tony Margaritelli Chair, ICPA
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