The transfer by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customes of some tax fraud investigations work from its Special Civil Investigations offices to a new team in Wolverhampton - one of 11 new offices across the UK - is not in the best interests of the taxpayer.
That's the view of Simon Littlejohns, tax partner at accountants PKF in Birmingham, who believes that downgrading tax fraud investigations is an inappropriate waste of taxpayers' money.
The new Civil Investigations of Fraud teams will be charged with investigating cases of serious fraud - not routine inquiries - with the SCI still handling larger cases.
Mr Littlejohns said: "In our experience, tax fraud investigations handled by HMRC officers in local offices are dealt with in a very formulaic way and one often gets the impression that the investigating officer is simply following a checklist.
"This is risky and could lead to the enquiry being handled in an inflexible way which, in some circumstances, can put inappropriate and unacceptable pressure on the taxpayer."
HMRC held a joint meeting with tax investigation practitioners last summer to review how it deals with investigation of tax fraud under the redrafted Hansard procedures.
These allow tax investigations to be carried out without the threat of direct criminal charges. HMRC was warned that downgrading fraud investigations to less experienced officers would not be a success but it has gone ahead and done it anyway.
Announcing the change, HMRC said it intends to handle more tax fraud investigations using newly trained CIF teams.
Mr Littlejohns added: "This just emphasises how much work SCI offices are having to deal with now that HMRC is obtaining more and more information on suspect taxpayers through bulk exercises such obtaining details of offshore bank accounts from the banks.
"While it makes sense to prioritise large and complex cases, I fear that a large number of taxpayers suspected of tax fraud will be investigated by inexperienced staff blindly following set procedures.
"Tax fraud investigations are rarely straightforward and ought to be investigated by experienced personnel who deal with such issues on a daily basis. Anyone facing a CIF enquiry is being accused of a serious criminal offence." l The aggressive and investigative mentality of Customs & Excise has largely triumphed over the Inland Revenue's traditionally more measured approach in the merged HM Revenue & Customs, according to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
A survey of 100 ACCA members showed that 89 per cent believed the merged body to be more aggressive than the old Revenue, while nearly 80 per cent thought there were more complications involved when dealing with the larger entity compared to its predecessor.
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of tax at ACCA, said: "The Revenue was always seen as taking a more reasoned approach to taxpayers than Customs, with its history of tackling smuggling, and its powers of investigation and arrest. ACCA warned at the time of the merger that the more assertive culture would win out and so it seems has been the case."