I see that Lin Homer is attempting to defy requests from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to hand over documents detailing tax deals agreed with five large corporations (including Goldman Sachs and Vodafone).
Exaro News reports that Homer has personally rebuffed the request, and insists that taxpayer confidentiality prevents her from showing the documents to the cross-party committee.
Taxpayer confidentiality is, to my view, a principle that should be defended. However, PAC are of the view that it should be dispensed with for these five companies.
PAC held a private session with HMRC chiefs, including Homer, and Sir Andrew Park, the tax judge who had advised the NAO, at the end of last month.
Margaret Hodge told Homer:
“Our view is that you do have the discretion – I know that this is contested – and it is also in the public interest, to enable us to have at least the background documents that you gave to the NAO, so that we can understand better the systemic issues that have been of concern to the committee, by looking at the details of the particular cases.Homer replied:
The committee has discussed this, and, of course, we would be happy to look at the documents in confidence, if that is your wish. But we feel that we need access to those papers to do our job properly.
Are you willing to use your discretion to enable us to hold you to, what I consider to be, proper public account?”
“Our duty to taxpayer confidentiality prohibits me from sharing, unless either I do so in pursuit of my function as a commissioner, or there is specific statutory gateway.”The question arises is Homer taking this stand on the genuine basis of the principle of protecting taxpayer confidentiality, or is she using this as an excuse to avoid handing over documents that might embarrass HMRC?
It is not clear cut to my view, and I would welcome views and comments.
Tax does have to be taxing.
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