HMRC guidance points to old tax law

You can find out about criminal offences relating to offshore income and assets in a new guidance note on HMRC’s website. But the guidance points to some very old tax law.

While HMRC guidance for taxpayers published on GOV.UK does not normally include statutory references, this guidance note has six.

At the time of writing, there are links to sections 7 and 8 of the Taxes Management Act 1970 as reproduced at Legislation.gov.uk, the “official place of publication for newly enacted legislation”.


UPDATE 22 March: HMRC has deleted the links to sections 7 and 8 and apologised for the error.


The problem is that while some progress has been made in processing changes enacted in annual finance acts, Legislation.gov.uk still presents the original versions of some of the key consolidation acts. The original TMA 1970, which turned 48 last week, is here.

There is a note that “this item of legislation is currently only available in its original format”, but not all readers will notice that. Some will assume that if HMRC links to a version of section 7, it must be right.

Sections 7 and 8 have both changed a lot since 1970. If you want to look at the current law governing notification of liability (section 7), or requiring delivery of a tax return (section 8), you’ll need to pay a commercial publisher such as Tolley, Croner-i, or Bloomsbury Professional.

Accountants and tax advisers expect to pay for those services, which include expert commentary. What about the unrepresented taxpayer who wants to look up the law that requires payment of tax?

I suggested in December that people should be able to understand the law that governs them, or at least be able to read it. They will not be expecting new HMRC guidance to point to law that is 48 years old.

I’ve asked HMRC to correct these links and to respond to my comments, and I’ll publish any response.

Separately, I’ve received a very helpful note from the National Archives in response to the December blog post. More on that soon.