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.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Homer's Noble Purpose

My thanks to a loyal reader who dropped me a note about a recent hot seat question and answer session, in which Lin Homer was asked about tax avoidance.

The exchange, according to my loyal reader, went as follows:
"Q: Ian Barlow (the new lead HMRC non -executive director) has been reported in the press as saying: 

'There is no meaningful distinction to be drawn between acceptable tax planning and unacceptable tax avoidance.'

 Do you agree with this statement? 

If not can you explain why a person holding such views has been appointed to a senior position in HMRC? 

Edward Troup (the new Tax Assurance Commissioner) has written that: 

'Taxation is legalised extortion'

In the same article he said that the judgement about whether to engage in tax avoidance or not was 'not immoral'. 

Do you agree with these sentiments? 

If not would you again explain why such a person could be appointed to a senior position in HMRC? 

Lin Homer responded: The views that Ian Barlow expressed in the article were several years old, and in fact he was making the point that legally there is no distinction between acceptable tax planning and unacceptable tax avoidance. 

In that sense, he was correct in what he wrote. 

Since that time Ian has worked very closely and successfully with Dave Hartnett to bring tax as an issue to be discussed in the Boardrooms of major companies, making responsible tax policy a Board-level subject for debate and oversight. Edward Troup’s comments were also made in an old article. 

The debate about the morality of tax avoidance is a live issue today, and I would prefer to regard paying all due taxes on time in terms of a noble purpose, rather than in terms of morality. 

I think morality is an issue for theologians and politicians, rather than for civil servants. 

The reason both Ian and Edward have been appointed to their new positions is because of the vast experience they bring in both tax and business, and this will be invaluable to HMRC."

Paying all taxes is a "noble purpose"!

I would agree with her that the issue of "morality" is not for the civil service, but is instead an issue for theologians. However, I would most certainly not agree with her that morality is an issue for politicians.

I refer Homer to my article in June, in which I said:
"A politician lecturing us on morality is as natural as a cat walking on its hind legs."
May I make a suggestion that at future hot seat Q&A sessions, if appropriate, loyal readers from HMRC start quoting from this site and/or suggesting that Excom start to read this site (just to see what the reaction is).

You never know, they may learn something!

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. To believe that Excom are not aware of what is written on this site would be an insult to those who have had the courage to post here.
    Anyone that disbelieves this has to be blinded by Pacesetter Evangelism/Stalinism (is there a difference?) or has absolutely no idea what life is like fot the HMRC workers.
    As for morality, without it you have very little, most people would eqquate morality in this sense to the old fashioned CIVIL SERVICE.
    Lin Homer speaking about noble purpose is gross hypocrisy.

    1. Maybe so, they may well be aware of it..but do they take any notice of what is said by loyal readers (both taxpayers and taxpayers who are staff) on this site?

    2. Probably not a lot, but then, for all its good points, the site doesn't tend to have a awful lot of constructive suggestions. Plus, to be fair, how much notice would you take of what was said on a website called, for example,

      Stew G

    3. Dear Stew G,
      If the almighty had wanted you to talk through your rear end he would have placed your lips there!
      If you are short of understanding of the constructive
      suggestions placed on Ken's site you lack imagination and/or knowledge, any one of which is an unfortunate omission.
      HMRC does not care about you, Ken or anyone else's views as such, but they do peruse them in an attempt to see how the balance weighs at any given point.
      The great thing about the internet, if you are able to see the wood from the trees, is still its ability to place facts out in the ether, or whatever it is called these days. If it becomes over censored and over surveilled another system will develop, imagine trying to cope with information passing via the fast parcel system, guarnteed not to be examined at frontiers, wow, a bit like the internet only slower, but not able to be surveilled as per Echelon and its newer partners.
      Now there's a thought for the Illuminati!

    4. Hmmm. There seems to be a bit of a religious theme developing in this thread. :)

      Your suggestion that imagination is necessary to be able to understand the constructive suggestions on this site them is perhaps telling.

      Re "perusing"/taking notice, I actually don't think you and I are that far apart. It really depends on what one means by "taking notice".

      Stew G

    5. Stewie, I would take lots of notice of a site called

      I think that you will find that where sites have been set up that negatively impact a company's brand/reputation the company does make a point of following what is posted on those sites (even if they never publicly comment).

  2. Sod, Stewed G

    Just seen the news - HMRC to recruit 1000 staff to their call centres to help the vainglorious 103rd reach its target of answering 9 out of 10 calls in the same week, or whatever the target time limit is. Bet this idea didn't fall off a whiteboard.

    Just remember these are not additional staff, they are replacement staff and chances are they will be on short-term contracts (if any) and recruited via Jobs4Us or whatever money making scheme the next generation of £8m CEO bonus payment schemes are called.

    Noble cause my ar@e, aomeones bonus or damehood has been under threat to make this lot move or react.

    LOL, great start to the weekend, over to you for an excuse Stew!

    1. Err, what does this have to do with me or my earlier comment? Are you under the impression that, because I disagree with much (though by no means all) of what Ken writes on this blog, I automatically agree with everything that HMRC does?

      Having said that, your comment is the first I'd heard about these extra staff but, given that everyone (even HMRC) seems to agree that HMRC's call response times need to be improved, it seems odd that you expect me to make "an excuse" for them being taken on to do just that.

      Stew G


    Have a browse through this lot and make your own judgement about HMRC, never mind the rest of the cast.