Magna Carta ignored by HMRC

The Telegraph’s Sue Cameron comments on Sir Robert Worcester’s view that plans to allow HMRC to access people’s bank accounts should it believe they owe taxes is a breach of Article 39 of the Magna Carta.

Article 39, which remains law, states that: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions… nor will we proceed with force against him or send other to do so except by the lawful judgment of his equals, or by the law of land.”

Sir Robert, who chairs the worldwide Magna Carta 800th Committee, describes the plans as “outrageous” and accuses the Government of “taking large chunks out of individual civil liberties.”

Source: The Daily Telegraph

We Say: Interesting thing, Magna Carta. Only three of the original clauses remain in force, though a surprising number were repealed only in the 20th century. And yes, the one about stripping people of their rights and possessions is one of them. Since you ask, the other two are about the freedom of the English church (despite Magna Carta pre-dating the Reformation by 300 years) and the ancient liberties of the City of London (always rely on the City to protect its interests, eh?). Among the clauses which have been repealed are the ones which say “if anyone dies owing a debt to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower and pay nothing of that debt” and “no-one shall be arrested or imprisoned upon the appeal of a woman for the death of anyone except her husband.” So we might tentatively suggest that appeals to the spirit of Magna Carta might sometimes be the tiniest bit controversial.

Sir Robert might be on firmer ground (or at least on more modern ground) were he to invoke Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – “No-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property”

And, by the way, yes we agree: HMRC’s plans to assume the right to whip money out of your bank account are outrageous, as we have told everyone who stands still long enough to listen.




Sam Inkersole

In 2022, Sam won the Taxation’s Rising Star award at the Taxation Awards in and was named in the Accountancy Age 35 Under 35.

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