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, 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.

Stephen Hardwick

Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs

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  1. With all the negative press surrounding Hartnett and his tax blunders now public knowledge, honest UK tax payers will be starting to lose their faith in the UK tax system.

    Surely the media pressure added with protests by UK Uncut and Occupy London, Hartnett will be making a bold statement if he does not resign. He also will have a lot to repair not only with his reputation but with the UK tax system.

    He needs to accept full responsibility and find a way of making his wrongs a right and regaining the public's trust...if possible.

  2. Charlotte, fair point but do not forget MPs are not blameless:)

    "Some MPs are now claiming that Hartnett was "out of control", and that there were no effective checks and balances on him in Whitehall or Westminster.

    Well, 20/20 hindsight is all very well and dog whistle politicians do rather love to attack wounded animals. However, I would venture to suggest a few points:

    1 Hartnett's behaviour, and HMRC's issues, have been widely publicised for a number of years. Were these same MPs all asleep during this period?

    2 HMRC is (theoretically) under the control of Parliament. Therefore the failings of HMRC and its senior officers are (when the "final buck is placed upon the table") attributable to our "respected" elected representatives.

    3 These elected representatives, who are howling for blood, are the very same people who have devised our "buggers' muddle" of a tax system, merged IR with Customs, ordered the restructuring and cuts within HMRC, appointed people such as Strathie and Hartnett and generally enjoy various tax privileges and avoidance schemes that the rest of us are not privy to."

  3. It seems that Hartnett has been unfortunate in having all of the blame placed on him.

    Looks like other MPs are using Hartnett as a scapegoat so they do not look so much of a guilty party in all of this.

    As the Head of Tax, if some one is to lose their position from public backlash then politicans have placed him in the firing line.

  4. Exactly!!

    Politicians have created this mess, and they must be held accountable along with those on Excom.

  5. @ Charlotte post #2. It was ever thus and ever thus shall be.


    It is a bizarre scenario where UK Uncut, a group which in reality ought to be on the same "side" as HMRC, are now marching on HMRC and calling for Jack's head.

    That in itself should show how skewed everything has become

  6. Or should I say skewered?

  7. Ken
    At the risk of sounding like the school swat I think that your entry for 2 September is worth reviewing with this one. It might well be why Hardwick is defending the indefensible!
    Agree your point about Government responsibility for this mess. And I do not think anything will come out of the PAC work. Surely their next move should be to ask HMRCs lawyers to attend

  8. Well, Jack is hardlY taking ALL the blame for HMRCs bad publicity on his shoulders, as anyone who works for HMRC and has any contact, business or social, with the public knows only too well............

  9. There has been very little media coverage of Jacks' PAC appearance apart from the odd paragraph. It should be news headlines so that the general public are made aware what this clown gets up to. I have not had one taxpayer tell me they will not pay interest/penalties because GS did not have to. I can't wait to 'advise' someone to write to in with their interest objection giving Jack as there reason.

  10. Stephen Banyard is Jack's little helper and bagman. He spent all his time during Jack's skewering by the PAC frantically passing him notes. He obviously doesn't like it when people are horrid about his boss.
    Watch Jack squirm at especially from about 15.45 onwards.

  11. "given that most of the tents are vacant, it is hardly an "occupation" or a credible "political movement""

    Oh dear. Time to turn away from the likes of the Torygraph, I think. The "90% of tents are empty at night" story has been debunked in other parts of the media.

  12. @26 October 2011 14:47

    I agree, it is no coincidence that this current PAC hearing is made up several new MP's as it means that an entrenched Tory MP doesn't have to answer difficult questions as to why Hairnett/Strathie/the other one are still in such a high position (even though the government still has an executive power to remove any of them at any time).

    It suits them to have him in power and for these new MP's to argue why he shouldn't be in power.

  13. "With all the negative press surrounding Hartnett and his tax blunders now public knowledge, honest UK tax payers will be starting to lose their faith in the UK tax system."

    As an "honest UK tax payer" I lost faith in the system a long time ago. HMRC needs to pull it's finger out and improve the service it provides.

  14. "Oh dear. Time to turn away from the likes of the Torygraph, I think. The "90% of tents are empty at night" story has been debunked in other parts of the media."

    Errmm "oh dear" one of the protesters told the BBC (not the Torygraph) that the tents are empty (eg because people have other things to do like run a business:))

    Oh dear!

  15. @27 October 2011 09:26

    Unfortunately just saying something needs to be this way or that way doesn't make it happen and having a lazy government that clearly has no idea what goes on inside its own departments doesn't help either.

  16. @Ken

    Which - if correct - demonstrates that the protestors can't all be the lazy feckless feral underclass benefit scrounging that certain tabloid commentators would like them to be.

  17. I completely agree anon 27 October 2011 09:44 :)

  18. Ken,

    Re: the empty tents, stop clouding the issue with facts! ;o)

    I'm becoming concerned by the coverage provided by the BBC as well, truth be told. They seem to be adopting a rather Government-centric view. However, I'm also aware that I'd then be in danger of sweeping away large sections of the media who don't present a view I agree with...

    I would recommend having a read of this brief article though. It's rather interesting and covers the 'empty tent' scenario, albeit relatively briefly.

  19. LOL:)

    Quite honestly I am "bemused" at the decision to close St Paul's because of some alleged 'elf and safety issue (is it that the protesters might spontaneously combust?).

    Given that St Paul's survived the Blitz I don't really think a few peaceful protesters pose a major threat to its safety.

    Or am I being far to "open minded" today?;)

    I suspect that I will cover the "'elf and safety" issue on in the coming days