From 1 April HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is permitted to publish the details of taxpayers where it is established that they have committed certain serious tax offences. It already has powers to do this in connection with Tax Agents.

The new rules are set out in section 94 of Finance Act 2009. They will apply for tax periods starting on or after 1 April 2010 and for offences which are committed on or after this date.

HMRC has already been given the power to name and shame tax professionals, providing that it is within the public interest to do so. These rules are covered by Section 20(3) of the 2005 Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act (CRCA).

No tax agents details have yet been published by HMRC, however, there is a major concern that these measures could adversely affect individuals or firms who have similar names. Internet search engines are likely to group them together and innocent parties may find that they are deemed guilty by apparent association.