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Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.
Friday, 18 April 2008
All Are Created Equal....
In his book "Animal Farm", Orwell wrote about how the pigs, once they had come to power, changed the rules of the game and introduced a new policy wrt equality:
"All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others".
Clearly those in charge of HMRC are fans of Orwell, and have used the example set by the pigs in formulating their rules wrt expense receipts for taxpayers and HMRC staff (who are also taxpayers).
HMRC staff (all 83,000 of them) do not have to submit receipts to cover claims ranging from meals to hotel accommodation and travel, and are entitled to expenses without actually paying out any money.
They can claim £100 for an overnight stay in London, and £20 for an evening meal while working out of their office without handing in receipts.
When out of their offices for more than five hours, they are entitled to a £6.50 meal allowance and a two-meal allowance of £14 when away for more than 10 hours.
Night work or sleeping in offices on call or standby after a day's work is worth £7.60 a night, while sleeping in the office after working late provides £10.90 a night.
Drivers can claim 5p a mile for each passenger they carry, while passengers themselves are entitled to a similar 5p allowance even if they do not pay anything for the privilege.
Staff can also choose to stay with friends or relatives, rather than at a hotel when working away and can claim £25.
There is nothing wrong in principle with any of the above, it is perfectly correct that staff should be reimbursed for out of pocket costs. It is also perfectly reasonable, given the difficulty of obtaining receipts for some cost items, not to expect a full/auditable record of every penny spent to be maintained.
Except that there is one small fly in HMRC's ointment.
Can you guess guess what that is?
Yes, that's right, the rules that apply to HMRC do not apply to the rest of us.
We are expected to provide receipts for all expenses claimed against taxable income.
Doesn't that strike you as being a little bit unfair?
The other rather interesting aspect of this matter is that HMRC have been trying to hide its expense policy from the taxpayers. It required UHY Hacker Young to use the Freedom of Information Act to discover details of the expenses regime.
Clive Gawthorpe, a UHY Hacker Young partner, is quoted in The Telegraph:
"Accountants who frequently face challenges over expenses for as little as £10 will find it ironic that HMRC runs such a liberal 'no questions asked' system for its own employees."
HMRC, according to Mr Gawthorpe, is also desperate to try to keep this policy secret from the rest of us and was urging its employees not to publicise rates and allowances.
Is this unfair?
In the eyes of HMRC it is perfectly fair, they believe that:
"All taxpayers are created equal, but some taxpayers are more equal than others."
Tax does have to be taxing.
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