Wednesday, 21 September 2011

They work for you?

Private Eye has being pursuing the head of the tax service, Dave Hartnett for quite some time. They allege that he personally - and illegitimately - oversaw cosy deals which allowed Vodafone to pay us £1.25bn instead of £6bn, and Goldman Sachs get away with £10m in interest they owed us (a criminal offence). This of course, looks like unequal access to justice: major corporations get to decide what if anything they hand over, whereas the rest of us cough up like good little citizens.

Hartnett gave evidence to Parliament recently. Did he confess his errors? Not quite.
Revenue officials did not follow correct procedures in two high-profile cases that could have left taxpayers millions of pounds out of pocket… an official neglected for a time to inform the board, leading to a delay which could have resulted in less tax being collected
By 'official', we should understand 'David Hartnett', not that he was about to admit it: he did secretive, personal deals with these companies, in breach of the law. Most startling was this nugget:

Hartnett refused to explain exactly what went wrong, how much tax may have been lost or confirm which companies may have escaped their full tax commitments. "…Mr Hartnett has refused even to indicate whether interest was paid by Vodafone on the tax due, despite confirming that it is an offence not to pay interest on tax owing… At present MPs can be briefed in confidence by the intelligence services, yet cannot find out any details of improper private tax deals done by the taxman. Even Treasury ministers are left in the dark."

So our elected representatives can compel spies to spill the beans, but the tax service doesn't even have to tell the Treasury what deals it cuts, let alone MPs or - god forbid - the citizenry. Banana, anyone?


Anonymous said...

What's his telephone number so that I can do a deal too.

The Plashing Vole said...

That seems reasonable. These deals mean that tax isn't inevitable: it's voluntary… if you've got enough clout and clever accountants. Even the HMRC's leadership no longer believes in collecting all taxes legally due.