The proposals – announced in the Budget in March 2014 – will give HMRC inspectors the power to recover funds from the self-employed and small businesses, where it is deemed they have sufficient money to pay the outstanding debt, with relevant safeguards in place.
While the measures do include the need to assess the 12-month debtor history in the decision, the Forum argues that the proposals could be seen as unfairly targeting small firms. They also fail to take into account unexpected costs often facing small businesses such as stock or new investment, which can be considerable and above the allowed £5,000 cash safety net outlined in the plans.
Commenting on the plans, Alexander Jackman, Head of Policy at the Forum of Private Business, said:
“Our members are unequivocal in their condemnation of tax avoidance and the tax evasion practices that have received significant coverage in the media, in particular, the practices of large corporates.
“However, many of our members already feel that they are unfairly targeted by HMRC and these proposals do little to dispel this commonly held belief. The smaller scope of their operations means many small business owners feel much more vulnerable to investigations than larger firms with more complex tax arrangements.
“Small firms are only just recovering from the increased regulatory burden of Real Time Information on their accounts and this is only set to increase with the introduction of pensions auto-enrolment. As a result, this makes them extremely wary of any plans to give additional powers to the taxman.
“The sheer variances of cash flow in different types of businesses and the limited resources available to effectively implement these proposals are also a real concern. These proposals, if introduced, could leave many of our members feeling that they are being unfairly targeted and the government should seriously reconsider.”