HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
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.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Careless Talk Costs Lives

Careless Talk Costs Lives
There is something of a siege mentality in HMRC these days.

I am advised that HMRC "management" are so worried about the leaks from their sinking vessel, that they have warned all staff not to go to the media about any internal cock up or management stupidity.

In fact, as you have all seen on this site, HMRC "management" are so afraid of being exposed as being useless that one of their lackeys recently posted comments here slagging this site off and talking up "management initiatives".

Here is some free advice to those "in charge" of HMRC, management by fear does not work.

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. As an HMRC employee, I know that all too well - nothing hurts more than the truth....

  2. Ken, Ken, Ken. You’re at it again: making accusations that you don’t have the evidence to back up. You’re really going to have to be careful that you don’t get accused of libel one day. That would be such a pity.

    “one of their lackeys recently posted comments here slagging this site off and talking up "management initiatives".”

    I hope I do not flatter myself in presuming that the “lackey” in question is yours truly. It is indeed an honour to get a mention in such an illustrious and popular blog! I’m not sure in which comment you feel I’ve been guilty of “talking up management initiatives”, and I apologise if I’ve given that impression. My aim has merely been to point out a small selection of the inaccuracies with which this blog is riddled (or, to paraphrase your trademark playground rhetoric, you could say that I’ve been “slagging this site off”). Never mind.

    True to form, you’ve jumped to the conclusion that the author of the comments in question is a “lackey” of management. If this is the case, there are two possibilities: either management authorised/ordered the comments, or the author made these contributions in the hope of garnering favour with said management. If the latter, could you explain how the author could hope to achieve that aim by posting anonymously? The former is a pretty serious accusation. Care to back it up with some evidence?

    Of course, if the author is not a “lackey”, the question remains what their actual motives are. We shall come back to that. In the meantime, allow me to draw your attention to your own mission statement on

    “It is the policy of the site to encourage an interactive, uncensored, exchange of ideas and opinions on any issue that visitors may choose to raise”

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but to me that reads like an invitation to post comments, and possibly even voice disagreement with what’s in the blog.

  3. And so to the question of why I am sufficiently discomforted by this site to spend my own time “slagging” it. This should be an interactive exchange of ideas and opinions for you, Ken.

    As an HMRC employee, I am of course affected – often adversely – by the changes that have been made, and continue to be made, in the department. I frequently disagree with the decisions that senior management has made regarding those changes. Some of the comments on this blog very much ring true, and it is perfectly valid for concerns about things like governmental tax policy to be expressed.

    My main concern, however, is that Mr Frost appears to have managed to convince many HMRC employees that he is on their side, fighting against the dark side that is management and the government, while standing up for the long-suffering employees. I don’t believe this for a moment. For reasons best known to him, Ken has got it in for HMRC (along with a few other organisations). The fact that industrial relations are particularly poor in the department is just manna from heaven for him, and he is using it purely as another way of attacking the department. Because it suits his purposes now, Ken makes noises about being on the side of the employees. I have little doubt, however, that if it suited him to name and shame an employee to make some point, he would not hesitate.

    Civil servants get a particularly bad rap. Political parties fall over themselves trying to out-do each other to kick us while we’re down. How often do we see tabloid articles praising the hard work that civil servants do to keep the country ticking over? We are much more likely to see articles berating us for one reason or another, or pointing out what cushy pensions we apparently have. This site is part of the reason that civil servants unjustifiably have such a bad name in this country. Do you really think that a casual internet surfer who came across this site would take away the message that HMRC is staffed by competent, professional and hard-working individuals who would do a good job were it not for the bungling of their leaders? Of course not! They would take away the message that HMRC is shite, every one of its employees is shite, and they would be more likely to immediately be prejudiced against any individual HMRC employee, who is probably shite. This sort of thing is fertile breeding ground for the political climate that leads to public servants being “offered” 2% pay “deals”!

    I work hard at my job and I like to think that I’m reasonably good at it. There may come a time when I move on from working at HMRC. Thanks to the systematic way in which politicians, journalists, and people like Ken spread mis-information about the department and all of its employees, that line in my CV is worth less than it otherwise would be.

    Although Ken claims to speak up for HMRC employees, I strongly believe that he has an agenda to see the department downsized to a fraction of its current size. If he had his way, the job cuts brought about by Varney would pale in comparison. I suspect this agenda stems from the fact that Ken is simply anti-tax, and would only be happy if no tax were payable in this country at all.

    There’s a permanent link to Nick Morgan’s Tax Hell website, for example. This individual has blogged the enquiry into his tax returns. He includes names, phone numbers and email addresses of 12 officers with whom he has dealt, along with recordings of telephone conversations with several of them, along with captions accusing them of being “rude, abrasive and unprofessional”. Listen to the conversations yourself and make up your own mind whether this is justified. Ken links to this, yet claims to be fighting HMRC employees’ corner! Outrageous.

    On another note, Ken clearly doesn’t approve of progressive taxation (the idea that higher earners paying income tax at a higher rate – we shall have to set aside for the moment the fact that the current National Insurance regime ensures that this is not strictly the case now – to tell the truth I actually agree with him that NI needs to be reformed!), as he’s mentioned the introduction of a flat tax rate a couple of times. Apart from the fact that this is less fair than a progressive system of tax rates (think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs!), it never ceases to amuse me that this is cited as a way in which the tax system can be made to operate more cost-effectively. Do people really think that HMRC has rooms full of people tapping away at calculators working out how much tax people pay in each tax band? Funnily enough, the computers work that one out in a second – the difficult bit is getting to their taxable income. The introduction of a flat tax will do nothing to materially reduce collection cost.

    Furthermore, Ken doesn’t seem to approve of HMRC trying to invest in improving its service (e.g. August 19).

    What do you actually want to be done, Ken? Criticising is easy; show us you can do so constructively! Even better, as you’re so concerned that poor HMRC only has an acting CEO, why don’t you throw your hat into the ring for the permanent job?

    There’s a lot to criticise about HMRC, but the half-truths, spin, and frequent use of the word “fark” on this site do not help. Check your facts, Ken, make balanced arguments, and come clean about the changes you really want to be made to the tax system.

    Then there’s that peculiar definition of tax avoidance...

  4. That's all very well, but the fact remains, HMRC IS shite!

  5. I agree, the proof of the pudding is in the eating... HMRC is Shite!

  6. Well if that's the case it should be possible to demonstrate it using proper evidence, statistcs, etc., rather than having to resort to heresay, out-of-context quotations, personal character assasinations, pseudo-bad language and speculation.

    Use the Freedom of Information Act - that's what it's there for!

  7. Absolute crap - as per comments numbers 2 and 3 in this thread. This blog is not a court of law, it is a forum where normal people may discuss their experiences of HMRC, good or (generally) bad in a generally light hearted way.

    As many recent postings have amply demonstrated, morale at HMRC is through the floor and one of the prime reasons for it is the hectoring, know it all, bullying tone of management, amply demonstrated by the author(s) of post numbers 2 and 3 in this thread.

    I have had enough of such bullying and hectoring at work, I simply don’t need the same thing forced down my throat when I settle down for a read of this, previously, interesting and humorous website, so sadly Ken, this is my last post.

  8. I think Ken is just trying to portray the department for what it has become!! Good on him.

    He doesn't need evidence, knobber!! He is publishing comments and opinions expressed by employees. I think you'll find a large proportion of employees agreeing with the comments and articles here.

    If you don't like it fuck off!!!

  9. yours truly, yours truly, yours truly, you are at it again............ me thinks you are on a hiding to nothing..........."minority" is the word I was looking for. How presumptuous and arrogant of you to think that Ken doesn't have the evidence to back up his postings on this blog. On the other hand, your postings have been so ambiguous and contradictory, I wonder if you would care to show face and "out" yourself? You have used veiled threats OAS and Intranet. I smell management again! On a scale 1 to 10 do you agree with the postings of HMRC employees on here or don't you?............ "Show me the money!!!"

  10. Ben,

    Thanks for your incisive contribution. While I have given your comments the consideration I feel they deserve, I consider that I have as much right to express my comments and opinions as Ken does to publish his own or anyone else’s. Apart from the fact that allows anonymous posts, Ken has invited HMRC staff to post anonymously – in light of his “vision thing”, I don’t see why that invitation should be answered only by those who agree with him.

    “anonymous” at 21:22,

    If you would like to point out where my postings have been so ambiguous and contradictory, I will be pleased to try to clarify them (I accept, however, that given that so many of us post anonymously, it is sometime difficult to tell who’s who). I am sorry if I have come across as presumptuous re evidence. Maybe there is a smoking gun behind much of Ken’s material, though where one exists, I wouldn’t have thought he would be one to shrink from shouting about it. One example is me: he has said that the reason I have posted some of my comments here is down to fears among management. He simply cannot have evidence for this, as there is no link whatsoever between any mood, action, or decision of any HMRC manager and me having made these posts.

    Speaking of the use of evidence, I think a quick read of the page I have posted a link to in my comment on the 21 August article demonstrates a pretty clear example of Ken having used a quote out of context in this blog.

    I am sorry if my comment about OSA has been interpreted as a threat. I am not management. My primary aim in mentioning the act was to point out that some people may be putting themselves at risk, though I assure you any consequences that may arise would be nothing to do with me. While I would hesitate to use a scale of 1-10, I do agree with a lot of what has been said here by employees. I think my posts reflect that, as I do not believe I have directly contradicted comments that have been made by HMRC employees about their experiences at work (though I have sometimes contradicted posters who have attacked my comments). Part of the reason for this is that I acknowledge that I am not familiar with every part of the department – you may note that I have not commented directly on the experiences of contact centre employees, for example. All I have done (and I intend to continue to do at least until I get bored!) is point out inaccuracies in the blog’s articles where I have identified them. As I have explained above, my concerns surround the way Frost presents these issues, and my misgivings about his motives. Given how strongly you clearly (and understandably) feel about the problems within HMRC, why don’t you contribute to, or set up, a staff-run blog? Who is this guy to speak for HMRC staff? If anything, his "farking" nonsense trivialises the problems faced by HMRC staff. Rory Bremner, this stuff aint!

    As for showing face and “out” myself, I presume you wish to know my identity. If so, I can only assume you’re joking! Quite apart from the phonecalls I would no doubt receive from people with an urge to voice similar expressions to those of Mr Dover, above, I would potentially be exposing myself to C&D action, as we’re not allowed to make public comments about the department to the media (and I can only apologise if that comes across as another veiled threat, but I will remind you that I’m breaking the rules just like everyone else!).

    P.S. I’m glad to see that Ken has included a link to his source in today’s article! :-)