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.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

HMRC Places Itself Above The Law

Above The law

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) is less than impressed with HMRC's consultation document on Code of Practice On Taxation of Banks.

"We are deeply concerned about any move that seems to erode what is one of the cornerstones of the UK's tax system: that taxpayers should be taxed according to the letter of the law.

Case law and documents going back to Magna Carta recognise this. In recent years, case law has developed its way of looking at the statute, towards a purposive interpretation of the transactions under consideration.

This has been a significant evolution, and one with which taxpayers and HMRC are managing to deal; it seems to deliver a good deal of what HMRC presumably hope to achieve with the current document.

However, any move to tax by the 'spirit' of the law is a major further step. HMRC need to recognise and justify the significance of the change

Slowly but surely HMRC are attempting to put themselves above statute and parliament, and take on the role of judge, jury and executioner wrt taxation and the interpretation of tax law.

This is an "evolution" that must be stopped.

The bedrock of dictatorship is an overempowered, arrogant, unaccountable, unelected bureaucracy populated by "little men" who believe that they are working for a "greater cause".

Issues wrt "faulty" tax legislation are for the elected members parliament to address, not the unelected bureaucrats of HMRC.

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. I'm absolutely laughing my @rse off here. You're using principles like democracy and accountability to argue that banks- those well-known bastions of accountability, transparency, sound financial management, wealth redistribution and social responsibility - should be permitted to use whatever means are necessary to keep their profits out of the public purse! Hilarious!

    Magna Carta? These people are losing the plot. As far as I can see, the biggest problem withe the code is that it's mostly irrelevant. As it's voluntary, I barely see the point.

  2. "I'm absolutely laughing my @rse off here. You're using principles like democracy and accountability to argue that banks- those well-known bastions of accountability, transparency, sound financial management, wealth redistribution and social responsibility - should be permitted to use whatever means are necessary to keep their profits out of the public purse! Hilarious!"

    No I am not.

  3. “should be permitted to use whatever means are necessary to keep their profits out of the public purse”
    Their profits, irrespective of the person/type of organisation, are their own property. A government (on behalf of the people) is only entitled to its legal share. In the non-communist world a government does not own the profits and earnings of companies and individuals.
    If any tax authority is perceived to be acting beyond the law, or that law is not clear, there are many businesses who would stay away from that country rather than risk capital in an entirely legal venture that may not pay off because of what someone may interpret at some unspecified time period down the road. The UK, USA, France and Germany are being affected by international companies decisions to base themselves in countries who understand the importance of the rule of law, protection of capital and avoiding excessive taxation that would cripple any economy.

    Trevor Scott

  4. "No I am not!" - if you mean hilarious, you're quite correct! :)

    You guys' blind faith in unfettered trickle-down economics is touching.

    If I'm reading you right, Trev, your starting point is that the ownership of capital is a paramount right and that tax is robbery of people's hard-earned profits. That's one way of looking at it. The problem with that is that money is itself worthless. It only has worth because there is economic activity that can be traded. Profitable economic activity isn't possible without the existence of stable society and until someone comes up with an alternative, society can't function without government that collects taxes that are used to maintain the functioning of that society. If you take this to an extreme (which I wouldn't, but I'm highlighting it to show that your position is at an extreme at the opposite end) it follows that a business's profits should actually be viewed as a gift from society! Society's gift to the entrepreneur is that, rather than allowing a pre-societal mob to kill him and his family and take his assets, it provides willing drones to donate labour to facilitate further accumulation of wealth. Next to that, taxes are a pretty small price to "pay"!

    Anyone want to borrow my Robert Tressel?

  5. Dear Comrade Lenin,
    Please avoid misrepresenting others views. You are the person who wrote such phrases as “tax is robbing” and that “capital is paramount”. As a law abiding and socially responsible citizen of a free society (non-marxist) I will happily pay legal proportionate taxes to my government, I will not be so happy to pay disproportionate taxes. Of course, if taxes become disproportionate then people can move to another country. Lots of people have!

    If you truly consider that money is worthless, give Ken and moi your own money and I am sure that we would both drink to your health.

    I thought people like you died out after the USSR stopped funding certain Unions/the Labour party.

    Trevor Scott

  6. It's such a shame that it's impossible to debate potentially interesting subjects without people feeling the need to resort to name-calling.

    You speak of "misrepresenting others [sic] views" and then go on to claim that I subscribe to the Marxist viewpoint I describe, but my post clearly includes the words:

    "If you take this to an extreme (which I wouldn't..."

    As for your claim that I have misrepresented your point of view, please note that I also said "If I'm reading you right, Trev". Obviously I wasn't. Thank you for clarifying.

    You also seem to be mixing up your ideologies. Whereas Communism is based on collectivism - state-owned enterprise, to simplify a little - if you read what I wrote properly I was clearly referring to private enterprise, and more particularly to the social responisibilitied of private enterprise.

    The point I was making in my last post, which seems to have been missed, is that tax very definately is a moral question. As I tried to explain by contrasting the extreme which I (wrongly) attributed to you with the other extreme, I was trying to show that there is a spectrum of perspectives on this. Obviously I am further to the left on that spectrum than you are. Sh|t happens.

  7. Some quick questions for you guys:

    1. You see the categorisation of types of behaviour that people engage in to reduce their tax liability as a purely black and white matter: it's either legal (avoidance) or illegal (evasion). Am I correct?

    2. If an avoidance scheme goes to court, and HMRC wins, is that scheme avoidance or evasion and why?

    3. If evasion, at what point did it become evasion? When the scheme was carried out, when the court ruled on it, or at some point in between?

  8. Theoretically, one can concede there is no way that law can ever cater for every eventuality.

    When you examine much tax law with that charitable viewpoint you find that, far from being the best that is practically possible, it is a pile of ignorant back of envelope crap that indicates little knowledge of the nature of the businesses being taxed.

    In 99% of cases there is no excuse for tax law or any other law that is not clear. A few more legislators with some genuine knowledge of how the economy works, who who have actually earned a living in the real world might help.

  9. Xoggoth,

    Perhaps you could illustrate your claim with a few examples. This shouldn't be difficult if, as you say, it applies to 99% of legislation. Please feel free to cite some legislation you're thinking of and explain why you believe it demonstrates a lack of commercial awareness.

    Your comment touch on lead to one interesting point, though. Leaving aside the fact that HMRC recruits specialist advisers from a range of business sectors and consults widely with affected industries and other stakeholders when designing new laws, anti-avoidance legislation frequently gets watered down as a result of lobbying of ministers by the industries affected. This, apparently, is democracy in action and definately has nothing whatsoever to do with money changing hands, no, no. But I digress.

    As the exchange above shows, every point made here seems to have to be spelled out, so what I'm trying to show at is that some of the people who have input to the writing of legislation have a very great deal of commercial knowledge indeed.

  10. HMRC have sent my son a letter telling him he has missed a year in NI contributions, and that this could affect his eventual state pension.

    He was at University that year, and still is.

    They invited him to make a payment of over three hundred quid.

    He lives on beans, for God's sake.

    I once heard of another case of a lady being asked to pay several thousand pounds, even though the 'missed years' they mentioned were the years she had been looking after her kids and thus those years 'qualified' towards her pension anyway, without paying the extra money.

    HMRC know my son is at University. They MUST also have known that the said lady had kids of 'qualifying age' as they were paying her child benefit and tax credits.

    So, how many of these spurious demands for cash do they send out to people who really don't need to pay..... and how many just pay, out of fear of losing their pension rights, or through ignorance of the rules in their own favour (which HMRC are not very forward in pointing out to them in the demand letters)... and then HMRC have a nice little earner going don't they???

    If that is the case, then either; HMRC are just LOW LIFE SCAMMERS, or; they are WASTEFUL INCOMPETENT IDIOTS. Crap either way.

  11. Which individuals exactly are you referring to as low-life scammers? If you're talking about everyone in HMRC then you've just denigrated quite a few thousand people.

    As for your anecdotal evidence, I'd like you to point me to an example of an organisation that deals with 60m (more when you include companies) people (can't call them customers here, of course), which has -for well-founded privacy-related reasons - tight restrictions on the amount and type of information about people it's allowed to collect or keep, in which mistakes don't occur.

    I don't know whether you still have the exact wording of your son's letter, but I actually got the same type of letter shortly before leaving uni myself. It was along the lines of: you didn't pay any tax/NI this year. Is this right? If you actually should have, please pay us this estimated amount now and then together we'll work out more exactly the liability. It included the bit about state pension (apparently research has shown that that will sway some people who would otherwise not pay NI they should have). It also included clear instructions on what to do if the estimate was wrong. A 5-minute phonecall ensued and that was the end of the matter. If your son's case was significantly different from this, please keep us posted on the progress of his complaint!

    That I didn't get as angry as you appear to have is perhaps a reflection of my rather retiring nature. If so then maybe the fact that I went on to work in HMRC rather goes against some of the accusations in other comments on this site that we're all "aggressive b*stards"! :)

    Oh, finally: "HMRC know my son is at University." You do know that students are still subject to income tax rules, don't you? From what you're saying, he probably hadn't used up his personal allowance, but we're back to my point about HMRC rightly not knowing everything about everyone. There's got to be a balance between collecting the right amount of tax, not relying on holding too much information, and having to ask people to confirm that they really shouldn't have been paying. Oh, and doing all this cheaply.

  12. Thank you for your comments Anon 11:05

    Please could you tell me if HMRC have any systems in place to ensure that someone who pays one of these demands unecessarily gets their money back?

    With '60m people' involved, I would think it highly likely that some do pay when they don't have to, and if there are no systems to put that right, then HMRC (as an organisation) are 'scamming' them in my opinion (and it is only my opinion)and doing so is simply wrong.

  13. Thank you for your 1139 comment, and thank you also for its measured tone. Things can get rather heated around here from both sides.

    This isn't quite my area (is anyone reading who is involved in this area who can shed light?), but I think the letter invites you to declare any earnings that haven't been taxed and also to make the payment on account. If you contact them to say there are undeclared earnings, whether or not you make payment at this stage, then you'll get a friendly (at this stage, the policy is that it really will be!) approach from an officer whose job it is to ascertain how much should have been due. Obviously, if it turns out from this investigation that it wasn't due then it'll be refunded.

    So, yes, my understanding is that there is such a process. I suppose it is possible that someone may send money in response to the letter without identifying who it's from or why it's being sent, but that would seem an odd thing to do because how would one expect it to get HMRC off one's back if they don't know who paid it. If it's a cheque then the person would be traced. If someone sends cash anonymously then that's obviously a problem but I think you probably have to assume common sense will prevail at some point.

    Another reason I find the scammer tag a bit strong is that the letters do (as with pretty much all HMRC correspondence in which charges are raised or payment is demanded - which actually this letter, if it's the one I'm thinking about, doesn't actually do as there's no legal assessment of tax liability) make it very clear what to do if you disagree. Scammers who try rope people in to pyramid schemes, the Nigerian scam, etc don't tend to include an equivalent paragraph in my experience. I think the fact that this is clearly stated is probably a sufficient defence against a presumably very small number of people who might otherwise anonymously send cash.

    The other difference is one of intent. The scammers intend to take money from people who don't need to pay it. The intent of the letters is to identify people who owe tax but haven't paid. The reasons the payment on account is suggested (and given the wording of the ones seen I believe "suggested" is the right word) if the person does know they've failed to declare are, I believe
    - it shows that HMRC are serious
    - it gives the taxpayer the chance to demonstrate cooperation if they are seriously at it (in some cases these letters have brought to light people who have failed to pay serious amounts that they should have)
    - apparently doing this at the first contact is more likely to produce the desired result (some kind of psychological thing, I believe)
    I simply cannot accept the suggestion that the intention of sending these letters is to scam people out if their money. There may be a very small number of cases where, unfortunately, it's gone arwy, and HMRC do - believe it or not - work to make sure these kinds of mistakes are reduced. Everything HMRC tells its staff is about their job being to bring in the "right tax at the right time", not about getting more tax in earlier and contrary to some claims, inspectors are not targeted on the amount they bring in. Ken and I argue about avoidance strategy like a couple of schoolboys because (as he won't admit - sorry, couldn't resist, sir) that as such a huge grey area. However, setting out to con little old ladies out of their pin money simply isn't our style!

    As I say, if anyone reading has more direct experience of doing this type of work in HMRC, please let us know if this is right.

  14. I have to write Anon (first Anon) that you cannot be particularly bright, because you have fallen for the snide ruse within this policy. Yes, banks get no sympathy (and deserve none) but, in picking on a wholly unsympathetic sector of the taxpaying community, the government is relying on the plebs taking the side of government. Your comments, as near as damn it, reflect exactly what the government wants you to say.

    And if, or when, the desired precedent is achieved, who's going to be next ? You perhaps ?

  15. I work for HMRC and after yet another day of dealing with (for the most part) rude and ignorant people I'm quite hppy to see that those traits apply to a number of bloggers here (I'm looking at you anon 25/09 9.43)
    Firstly NI Contribution letters are from the DWP (NICO office) not HMRC, just so you know. Secondly HMRC/DWP do not know peoples individual status', how exactly would we know your son is at Uni? Thirdly even if you are unemployed or at University and make no contributions you will have missing years. The DWP have a duty to let you know your status intermitently deficits and all. Whether or not you decide to pay them is, as they say, your beef!

  16. In response to the contributor, whose son received a letter from NICO, I also received one back in 2005 asking for a year's contributions. In fairness, the letter stated that I did not need to pay, but that I could have a shortfall that could affect my state pension. At that time I had accumulated 43 years NI, at age 60. I refused to pay, pointing out that I would receive credits after age 60 anyway. It did not point out that only 30 year's contributions would be needed by the time I retire anyway. This makes me wonder how many people have paid unnecessarily? The following year I received a similar letter asking me for a voluntary contribution of over £300, despite the explanation I had provided them the year before. I have since had a State Pension projection confirming my full pension rights. The second letter was at best unnecessary, and at worst, asking for money under false pretenses. All the relevant facts were available to them that indicated that I did not need to pay.

    Finally, to the HMRC person. I do not understand why you wish to work in an organisation in which your 'customers' are 'rude and ignorant'. Surely you have a choice. If that choice is to continue to deal with 'rude and ignorant' people then so be it. When I joined the Civil Service (as then called), I refused to join the Inland Revenue, because even at the tender age of 17, I knew that it was an unpopular organization. Your choice, get on with it.

  17. I don't choose to work here, my degree/masters have been no use to me since leaving University in '05. This has been the only job I've had since, been here 3 years. Given the current financial/employment climate leaving really isn't an option.
    And if myself and my colleagues had an attitude of 'leave if it's bad' then my place of work would be a ghost town.
    I'm good at my job (as are 99% of my colleagues) and try to help as much as we I however the bulk of people think themselves superior and above tax. It's a two way street.

  18. I can certainly give you examples from my own previous experience as a contractor (now retired) Mr Anonymous the First. IR35 provides for:-

    1) 5% allowance for company expenses. Contractor expenses are not percentage based but largely flat rate. A contractor on £8 an hour (yes, they do exist) or one who manages to find very little work in a year pays very nearly as much for cos house fees, annual accounts and business insurance as one earning over £100k. A percentage based allowance was total bloody ignorance!!!

    2) IR35 makes no allowance for the many services that employees get free of tax. They don't have to keep any records or do their own PAYE, they are not normally obliged to fill tax returns or other forms, deal with HMRC queries or administer or review their own pension schemes. Contractors don't have HR departments to deal sympathetically with their problems, including purely personal ones sometimes, or free social clubs or subsidised canteens.

    3) IR35 makes no provision to spread income between good and lean years. When I was an employee we has the odd bad year with few contracts and was put on development work. You can't do that as a contractor. A contractor earning £60k one year and £10k the next pays a lot more tax than an employee on £35k a year even though the actual money the worker brings in from the company's clients is the same.

    Outside IR35, according to booklet 490, an agency nurse on average £35k a year does a week's work at a hospital away from home and is not entitled to any travel expenses. A sales manager on £150k pa spends a week at a client's but can claim all his expenses. How does that make sense?

    Total bloody ignorance!!!

  19. Anon 26/09, 10:32 - ah yes, thanks for your input. I was thinking more of the income tax version of the same letter. Apologies. I presume a similar system works with NICs for checking up when people have paid in response to the letters?

    Andrew - I hope you don't question the intelligence of everyone with whom you disagree. You may be liable to find yourself with egg on your face. Or perhaps a fist.

    You seem to be concerned that a government effort to stop tax avoidance by banks is the start of some kind of long-term agenda to reduce tax breaks (again I'll turn to ISAs for the examples that follow) for individuals. There are two reasons why I do not agree:

    1) there has always been an anti-avoidance strategy (albeit known by various names) with the aim of reducing the impact of behaviour that seeks to achieve a tax result contrary to that intended by parliament. The evidence for the existence of such a policy can be found in case law going back at least to the late 19th century! If tackling avoidance is part of a scheme to create a political climate in which the withdrawal of tax incentives for the man on the street, it must be a pretty far-sighted one.

    2) Once again, we come back to what happens when tax mitigation and tax avoidance are misleadingly lumped into one category. As I've repeatedly explained, the difference is that the former reduces tax by using the law in the way that parliament intended it to be used, while the latter uses the law in ways that it was not intended to be used. This is a fundamental difference, so this 'slippery slope' argument just doesn't hold up. Even if HMRC were to have unprecedented success in stamping out complex corporate avoidance, getting rid of ISAs wouldn't be any easier for the government because stopping people abusing the law is a totally different thing from withdrawing legal incentives (the use of which is not avoidance). Look at the way the banking charter is being sold by the government: they say that they're clamping down on abuse by banks. For this to be an effective part of a strategy to pave the way for doing away with ISAs, the government would then have to say to the electorate that ISAs were being withdrawn because they the electorate themselves were abusing the tax system by using them!

    I totally agree with you that there is a political motive behind picking on banks like this. However, I think it's a completely different one, albeit probably not much less cynical than the one you seem to think is behind it. The government is under pressure to be seen to be doing something about banking excesses. Tax avoidance is probably one of the few areas in which they can do very much, and producing this toothless code of practice is one way that they can quickly look like they're doing something!

  20. I work for HMRC and after yet another day of dealing with (for the most part) rude and ignorant people (Anon 25 September 2009 22:56)...

    I too work for HMRC and, sadly, have to say that in my office (for the most part) that the "rude and ignorant people" I have to deal with each day are in fact the senior management!!!

  21. Xoggoth

    Perhaps I misunderstood your first post, but I thought you were talking about situations where lack of clarity of a piece of legislation, caused by the authors' lack of commercial awareness, let to the creation of loopholes. You've cited IR35, which is a piece of anti-avoidance legislation! As to the points you've made, the whole point of IR35 is to discourage the use of service intermediaries purely to avoid tax; reflecting all possible circumstances that may be faced by every type of service intermediary/contractor is not its goal, even if that were possible. If anti-avoidance legislation has any chance of being effective it helps if it's relatively simple – unfortunately this has priority over molly-coddling would-be tax avoiders.

    In your first message on this thread you indicated that to say that “there is no way that law can ever cater for every eventuality” is a charitable point of view. Does this mean that you think it is possible to design law that CAN cater for every eventuality?

    If so, let's try a simple, high-level starter example. Tax is supposed to create as level a playing field as possible, but the tax incidence (if in doubt see the Wikipedia page on the subject) actually suffered by an individual or business depends on the elasticity of its supply of capital, its supply of inputs, and its outputs. One result of this is that the tax that actually falls on workers and investors varies substantially according to the sector and segment in which they are interested and also according to their wealth. The current system is a fudge whereby CT, IT, VAT etc are paid at their various rates but the burden actually falls on different economic players disproportionately according to circumstances other than their wealth/income. If it is possible to design law that can cater for every eventuality, it should be possible to solve this problem. Any suggestions?

  22. Anon, 27/09 22:39 - Have you done the staff survey yet? If so did you notice the question about what grades you see as senior management?

    Out of interest, which grades are you referring to in your post?

  23. NI Defficiency Notices are sent out by HMRC not DWP. NICO is now part of HMRC not DWP

  24. "Anon, 27/09 22:39 - Have you done the staff survey yet? If so did you notice the question about what grades you see as senior management?

    Out of interest, which grades are you referring to in your post?"

    I have filled in that survey today and by all accounts the results are going to be even worse than the recent totally disastrous one.

    I entirely agree with the earlier correspondent who stated that the "rude and ignorant people" I have to deal with each day are in fact the senior management!!! In my experience these people are completely ignorant of the day to day work that we have to do and are arrogant and bullying in their disregard - I count these grades as G7, G6 and above and if our friend the management nark disagrees, I will provide him/her with a multitude of examples.

  25. Anon 28/09 1700,

    If it's me who you are referring to as a "management nark" I'd like you to explain why you feel fit to describe me that way. Obviously it's difficult to keep track of which posts are mine because of the anonymousness thing, but I have made it clear in the past that the reasons I am critical of this blog are that it's full of misrepresentations and half-truths, I do not believe Ken's claim that he intends to stand up for HMRC staff, and the undertone of reactionary right-wing politics that occasionally rears its head. As for the specific charge of being a management nark, I have very rarely commented on posts about people-management issues - and when I have it's only been when public-domain information demonstrates that Ken's claims are so misrepresentative that I feel I can't not comment. I generally restrict myself to things like avoidance - a political and moral issue - and HMRC's interaction with taxpayers.

    Any way. Why would I disagree? I asked which grades were considered to be senior management and you said G7 and above. What am I going to say: "Oh no you don't believe that!"?

  26. Xoggoth,

    Sorry. I forgot to comment on your example of the nurse and the sales manager. On the face of it, this does appear to represent a discrepancy. However, applicability of the benefits code is dependant on the individual facts of the case, not on the class of job someone does. Specifically in relation to your example:
    - agency nurses will generally work between a number of hospitals in a relatively local area. The code treats travel between home and each of these as akin to commuting and therefore travel expenses are non-deductible (it is different if the nurse goes Home-Hospital1-Hospital2-Home in one day, as the middle leg is deductible). If such commuting were tax-deductible it would put non-agency workers at a distinct disadvantage as they would not get a deduction for ordinary commuting under any circumstances.

    - the two examples you cite are not analogous. The sales manager's one-week client visit is more like an agency nurse going to another part of the country for a week-long CPD course, the expenses for which would be allowable. In fact I would think tha most agency nurses, whose work I would expect to center on a given area, costs of travel to a job at a hospital significantly outside that area for a week-long (non-training) job would be allowable.

    - the sales manager's expenses would be subject to the same rules. The allowability of the travel expenses would depend on the facts and there are plenty of possible sets of circumstances under which the manager wouldn't be able to claim.

    - the rules don't discriminate according to income. Locum doctors shouldn't get travel expenses either, for example.

    - these rules don't discriminate against

  27. Oops! Didn't mean to put that last bullet in!

  28. If it's me who you are referring to as a "management nark" I'd like you to explain why you feel fit to describe me that way

    It's probably you, but because you post anomymously (like me)I can't be certain.

    I call you a management nark because I have over 20 years experience in HMRC, (formerly HMC&E) work regularly in four major offices and I have a wide variety of friends and colleagues ranging from AA to SO grade and I can cofidently state that not a single one of them would express in private the sort of pro management views that one contributor here regularly seems to make, and seeing as you are so upset, I presume that it must be you.

    I have no problem at all with anyone who expresses pro management views - indeed your posts are often witty and informative and I often agree with you when you post on topics such as tax avoidance. I would just ask that you understand that there are many members of staff who are suffering under this awful management and they have a right to be heard without being shouted down.

    I do not mean you to take the term "management nark" as an insult - I meant in a joke type of way - but I'm not sure that you felt the same a while back when you accused my friend of being a "nutter" simply for using the word "jackboots" when you had no idea of the scale of the tyrannical regime in place at the office where he works.

  29. Previous Anonymous (gosh, it's confusing!)

    Ah, the nutters thing. Yes that was me. I believe you're referring to my comment on Ken's 14/07/09 post. During a comment in which I was myself criticising management (although I couldn't resist a little dig at Ken too), I said that "I'm not going to start talking about jackboots, like some of the mutters who post here frequently seem to...". (Obviously, "mutters" was a typo and was meant to be "nutters".)

    This aside was of course meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek and if I was thinking about anyone in particular it was probably a handful of people (apparently not HMRC employees) who had been posting some pretty strong stuff at around that time. I had had a look at one of their blogs - it made the Daily Mail look like a left-wing broadsheet. However, I do think I was making a serious point about the jackboots thing. Staff and the unions quite rightly want things to change. Apart from being pretty distasteful, I just don't think using images like that is an effective way of presenting an argument or, more importantly, influencing change. If you're dealing with management and use words like that then they are likely (not entirely without justification) to take offence and are therefore less likely to concede to changes. Meanwhile, if the public get to hear about it, they may not go so far as to think "nutters", but it is likely to be seen as exaggerated.

    I also find it difficult to accept that I was guilty of shouting anyone down. The tone of the comment in question was far from that which could be said to be shouting someone down. I was agreeing with the point being made by those who talk about jackbooted hoardes: namely that there are problems with the management of HMRC. Finally, there wasn't actually anyone to shout down! The only comments prior to mine were two short lines, and I don't think I even referred to them.

    Having said all that, I take your point. I myself complained above about name-calling. I shall try harder to practice what I preach in future.

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