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Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Downfall II - HMRC Fights Back
My thanks to a loyal reader who posted HMRC's Stephen Hardwick's (Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs) intranet defence of Dave "Jack" Hartnett on this site the other day (apologies that it got stuck in the spam filter!).
I note he talks about "relentlessly" pursuing tax evaders.
Fair enough, except that (as I understand it) the vampire squid was trying to avoid (not evade) taxes. So that, to my humble view, is a red herring.
Additionally, quite why Hardwick chose to use the Occupy London Camp as a rationale for his message also eludes me; given that most of the tents are vacant, it is hardly an "occupation" or a credible "political movement".
Surely he would have been on firmer ground (if he really believes what he is saying), robustly demolishing the PAC assault on Jack (which after all is the real threat to Jack's career and the future of HMRC)?
Therefore, to my humble view, this was a wasted opportunity by the Director of Corporate Communications.
Anyhoo here it is (as posted), feel free to comment:
"London tax demonstration: Message from Stephen Hardwick
24 October 2011
You may know that activists are expected to march from the Occupy London camp at St Pauls’ Cathedral to 100 Parliament Street this afternoon, where they will call for Permanent Secretary for Tax Dave Hartnett’s resignation.
The march has been co-ordinated by tax pressure group UK Uncut and follows a week of media coverage over the Department’s large business settlements.
UK Uncut has persistently misrepresented how HMRC handles large business settlements and has targeted our 2010 settlement with Vodafone in particular.
Their claims that HMRC does “sweetheart deals” are wholly false. HMRC has relentlessly pursued all taxpayers who seek to evade tax, big or small. In fact, the money we bring in through our compliance work has more than doubled since the Department was created in 2005. Last year, that figure stood at £13.9 billion.
UK Uncut and others have attacked HMRC – and Dave Hartnett personally – over the non-disclosure of confidential tax records. As they know, the law prevents us from doing this.
We have repeatedly said that our legal advice makes clear that any official who breaks taxpayer confidentiality, whether before a Parliamentary committee or in any other context, could be prosecuted. We have a duty both to protect taxpayers’ confidentiality and our employees.
UK Uncut’s march on HMRC and its call for Dave Hartnett to resign are misguided. While there is a role for public campaigning against tax avoidance and evasion, and we welcome the profile it brings to the issue, those who target individuals and companies do have a responsibility to get their facts right. Otherwise they undermine both their own cause and HMRC’s work.
Dave Hartnett will be declining UK Uncut’s request that he resigns, and he has the full support and sympathy of all his ExCom colleagues. He is taking all of the burdens of HMRC’s negative publicity on this issue on his shoulders and, in our view, does not deserve to be targeted in this way.
Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs"
Tax does have to be taxing.
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