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.

Monday, 24 October 2011


Such is the perceived mess that HMRC is in, and the animosity felt by many towards Dave "Jack" Hartnett, that GOD, or to give him his mortal name Gus O'Donnell (the cabinet secretary) is to investigate demands from senior MPs for a fundamental reform of HMRC.

The Guardian reports that Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the public accounts committee, met with GOD and told him that he had to consider how to bring greater accountability to HMRC's dealings with big business.

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.

Hartnett refuses to answer journalists' questions about his arrangements with Vodafone and Goldman, saying that taxpayers' affairs must be confidential.

Hodge on the other hand has said that she wanted O'Donnell to accept that corporations were not entitled to the same privacy rights as individuals.

The public accounts committee also wants HMRC to be accountable to the National Audit Office, and for the NAO to have the right to brief MPs in confidence about controversial decisions. HMRC refuses to give the auditors detailed accounts of big tax disputes, once again citing the need for confidentiality.

As you can see, this is developing into a power struggle between Parliament and HMRC. This is rather ironic, given that HMRC is meant only to be a bureaucratic arm of government responsible for the efficient and cost effective gathering of taxes.

Something, somewhere in the past seems to have given HMRC ambitions above its "position" in the grand scheme of things.

Whatever the outcome of the battle between HMRC and Parliament, Jack's position has become untenable.

All lofty ambitions end one day, shattered and decaying into dust.

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. If Hartnett resigns, we are stuck with Strathie. Be careful what you wish for Ken, you may just get it!

  2. But with Strathie still on extended sick leave (I still think its partly a premise for her to bail out onto pastures new). What other gormless idiot is waiting in the wings to take us even further down the road of catastrophe. I totally agree with Ken, parliament have very selective memory having approved the flawed tax system, approved the merger and approved the excom board, they were quite happy for maverick Hartnett to go about his merry way unchecked and if the whistle had not been blown be happy to maintain the status quo, so they are just as inept and gutless as the people they are allegedlingly trying to bring to account. Some Chance!!!!

  3. It should be mandatory for the next person who gets the job to be an inspector of taxes at least. The old Dame is not. I still think he is too arrogant to resign. Nice job at a-voidaphone or Goldman Sucks for him me thinks. He really is a horrible little man.

  4. "What other gormless idiot is waiting in the wings to take us even further down the road of catastrophe."

    I can assure you that there is no shortage of gormless idiots in the senior management. There'll be another one along any minute now.

    And if that doesn't work, we can always import from the endless supply of gormless idiots in the private sector ('Reg' Varney, Lamebrain, etc...)

    There was a piece on the Intranet earlier today from one of the second-rankers (rhyming slang) about UKUncut/Occupy's protest outside HQ demanding Harnett's removal. It was full of self-pitying whining about how terribly unfair it was being to Divvy H. I would have read further, but I'd have been in danger of throwing up over my Standard Process Descriptors, so had to stop.

  5. 17:40, funnily enough i have just sent a link to Ken on that very same thing.... here is what i found:

  6. From Yesterdays Guardian:

  7. Anon Re the Guardian piece, is that not the same piece I have referenced in my article?

  8. It is, my apologies Ken, didnt read your article properly.

  9. Here's the text of the intranet piece referred to above:

    "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"

    To which the only valid response may be: "Boo-fscking-hoo!"

  10. 24 October 17.40

    At the risk of vomit-related accidents, could you post at least the gist of HMRC's whine about people being horrid to Jack? It might just give the rest of us a laugh.

  11. I posted it on Tuesday evening, but it seems to have been deleted.

  12. Anon

    Sorry your intranet posting got caught in my spam filter.:(

    I have "released it" now.

    I don't delete comments, so if someone has posted something that does not appear please drop me an note and I will look for it.


  13. @25 October 18.41

    Boo fucking hoo indeed.
    I seem to remember during Jack's latest Parliamentary grilling, they managed to grind out an admission that details could be discussed with Parliament at the Commissioners' discretion. Jack is a Commissioner! It follows that he's not barred from discussing Vodafone/Goldman Sucks, he just doesn't want to.