An accountant and his accomplices have just been jailed for VAT fraud. Confiscation orders have been made against his assets. It all begs the question; why does HMRC need more powers to use against agents?

Reported in Accountancy magazine this week: Chartered Accountant Parmjit Singh Rana set up 19 fake travel businesses across the UK, which were operated by his co-defendants, Graham Albert Scriven, Amrit Singh Mangat and Ajmer Kooner Singh, who helped launder the criminal profits from the VAT fraud. Following a successful prosection by HMRC the four have received jail sentences totalling 7 years. A asset confiscation order has been made to recover an estimated £2.6 million in overclaimed VAT. Mr Rana is also disqualified from acting as a company director for ten years.

Consultation has just ended on HMRC's Working with tax agents proposals which seek to create a new civil penalty system for agents found guilty of fraud.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) have all queried the need for any new legisation. HMRC has gone back to the drawing board after its first attempt at drafting legislation backfired: it was too broadly drafted to make any sense.

HMRC also has existing powers to name and shame tax agents.