The recent shambles over "Datagate" and a marked decline in HMRC helpfulness and competence, as noted by tax advisers, taxpayers and finance professionals, has led to calls for greater discipline to be applied to HMRC underperformes.
A recent consultation exercise by HMRC has given rise to proposals that tax inspectors could be disciplined if they fail to follow official guidance. Other proposals called for HMRC to put more effort into helping taxpayers get things right, and allow deductions for legitimate compliance costs.
As Mike Warburton, tax partner of Grant Thornton, said:
"I am very supportive of this idea. The taxman is very quick to challenge advisers who mistakenly advise a client, so why shouldn't tax inspectors be held accountable for their errors in a similar way."
The principle of "sauce for the goose" is a most excellent basis from which to start rebuilding the shattered image of HMRC.
Advisers and taxpayers are of one mind, in their view that individual tax inspectors often develop interpretations that do not follow general guidance.
This is hardly surprising given the fact that guidance is often too complex, too hard to find and not updated regularly enough; neither the taxpayer nor inspector can understand it.
The blame for the complexity of the tax system lies full square with our Prime Minister, who for the last ten years has applied his own unique brand of micro management and love of detail to the hlepless corpse of the HMRC.
Until there is a fundamental change in the personality of Brown, or a change in Prime Minister, there will be no simplification of the tax system and corresponding improvement in the performance of HMRC.
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