The FT reports that HMRC is conducting an internal investigation into allegations that HMRC staff/officials have been leaking details of private companies' tax affairs to the media.
Suspicions about internal leaks have been aroused as a result of the ongoing furore about the tax arrangements of certain companies such as Vodafone (some sections of the shouty media and certain dog whistle politicians are of the view that tax avoidance is illegal).
Five staff have been taken off corporate investigation work, and the National Audit Office has been called in to investigate how HMRC reaches tax settlements with major clients.
Unless things have changed very dramatically since I was a lad, settlements are usually reached via a mixture of negotiation and barter. HMRC set down their perceptions of how much tax is owed, the company will rebut these point by point (where it can) and throw into the mix counter claims for overpaid tax etc. In the end a deal is reached.
The procedure usually produces an equitable outcome, so long as the HMRC decisions maker (who signs off on the deal) is not unduly biased one way or another.
It would appear, that in the current febrile atmosphere, there are those within HMRC who believe that Dave Hartnett has become a little too close to certain companies; whilst others counterclaim that he has acted properly, and within the rules/procedures.
Clearly an organisation that is meant to guard people's/companies' tax details, in the same manner that a doctor guards the medical records of his/her patients, cannot function or be trusted if these details are leaked to the press.
Tax does have to be taxing.
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