Thursday 31 January 2008

Fiddling Whilst Rome Burns

Fiddling Whilst Rome Burns
Whilst tax professionals and taxpayers the length and breadth of Britain are scrambling to file their returns online, and overcome HMRC catastrophic systems crash earlier today that prevented them from submitting their online returns, it is reassuring to know that HMRC are taking their customer satisfaction very seriously.

You will recall that earlier this month I wrote about a fellow professional who was rung up by HMRC with an "urgent" customer satisfaction survey, HMRC wanted it done by the end of the month.

I am advised by the same chap that at 4.40pm today (31st January), as their firm's server was in meltdown trying to transmit the last few tax returns (now that the HMRC system is more or less back online), the HMRC Customer Satisfaction team ring them back again to ask them to take part in the same survey.

Naturally HMRC were told to piss off.

What planet do HMRC live on?

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

HMRC Site Crashes Update

HMRC Site Crashes Update
The latest from the BBC says that HMRC have graciously extended the deadline for submission of online returns to midnight tomorrow.

Thousands of taxpayers were facing an automatic £100 fine plus interest on any tax due if they missed the original midnight deadline.

HMRC now says no one who files their return before midnight on Friday will be penalised.

"HMRC's self assessment online filing service has experienced technical difficulties this morning which has meant that some tax payers have experienced difficulties filing on-line," said an HMRC spokesman.

He said the system is now rapidly returning to normal levels of service and HMRC very much regretted any inconvenience caused.

So that's alright then!

How about getting it right nest year then lads?

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

HMRC Site Crashes

HMRC Site Crashes
I am advised that the HMRC online filing system has crashed today.

I received the following note from a fellow professional:

"Just tried to log in to check a clients self assessment account – Service is unavailable – at noon on January 31st!!"

Well done lads!

They wonder why people don't have any faith in their IT system!


Seemingly it's the taxpayers' fault for leaving it so late to file their returns!

That at least is the view of the HMRC "helpdesk" (see below).

Here is what the BBC have to say about it:

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has confirmed that its self assessment website is temporarily unavailable.

Tax payers have until midnight on Thursday to file their income tax returns, and pay any tax due, or they will have to pay a fine plus interest.

HMRC said it apologised "for any inconvenience caused", and added it was working to restore the service "as soon as possible".

More than 150,000 people filed their tax return on 31 January last year.

An HMRC spokesman confirmed the service had gone down "at some point on Thursday morning", although he could not say what had caused the problem.

"The self assessment online system is temporarily unavailable", he said.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused, and are working to restore the service as soon as possible."

The BBC has been deluged with complaints from taxpayers who have found themselves unable to log in to the system.

Edward Buxton from Nuneaton has spent the morning trying to file returns on behalf of himself and his wife.

"I first logged in at about 9.00 this morning, after the school run - I must have kept pressing refresh for about an hour; then I gave up," he said.

"I have been trying on and off since. Once I got a message from HMRC saying that they are aware of the problem. but most of the time the message just says something along the lines of 'the server has no idea what the page is you are trying to access'.

"That doesn't give you great confidence," he added.

Chris Kirby is an accountant based in Redcar in North Yorkshire.

He is trying to file returns on behalf of six clients.

He said the problem first arose at about 4pm on Wednesday afternoon, after which the website "pretty much crashed".

He has not managed to get onto the system since. He said that when he first contacted the helpline, they denied anything was wrong.

Eventually staff told him the problem was down to "too many people trying to log on".

"One person on the helpline was quite rude, and said 'It's your own fault for leaving it to the last minute'," he said.

But it is not uncommon for clients to find they cannot submit their information until just before the deadline, he said, and he believed HMRC should be able to cope.

"They should have had not just sufficient capacity but spare capacity to deal with the peaks they should have known they were likely to get today," he said.

His clients now faced the automatic £100 fine for non-submission which he would then have to appeal on their behalf.

"Really, it's just not good enough for a public body," he added.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of tax at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), said HMRC should consider pushing back the cut off point.

"If the Revenue's IT systems have crashed, then they need to extend the deadline. They need to be pragmatic."

If the problem continued for a few hours, he said the deadline should be pushed to Monday.

He said this would encourage people to use the online system in future years.

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Duchy Originals

Duchy OriginalsFollowing on from my earlier article about HMRC's security protocols preventing "special people" (MPs, celebs and royals) from filing their tax returns on line (seemingly HMRC do not feel that the IT system is secure enough for such high profile individuals), I have been advised that this special status also appears to apply to anyone who works for the Royal Family.

That would include, for example, the staff employed by the Duchy of Cornwall (98 as per the 2007 accounts).

Add in all other royal staff at the numerous palaces, castles etc and you come up with a reasonably large number of people.

Given that the data will have to be manually input into a special secure area, does this not represent quite a large amount of unnecessary extra work for the already overworked HMRC staff at the "coal face"?

Wouldn't it be better to simply improve the IT systems, and ensure that they offer all citizens the same level of security?

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Big Brother

Big Brother
There is something of a right old fracas brewing over the secret contract that gives government officials access to detailed records of 16 million houses and property sales. This contract is due to expire in March, and will be up for renewal.

The contract is between the government and Rightmove, the online property search firm, and it gives HMRC staff access to its records of transactions.

Needless to say these records contain details such as sale prices of properties, their internal features and any modifications that would enhance their value.

Why would HMRC be interested, or indeed need to know this this information?

Council tax!

The details gleaned by HMRC will be used by the government to increase council tax. This most hated and iniquitous tax is already being raised again this year by more than inflation. We can be certain that as the government becomes ever larger and more greedy, it will need to find further ways to fund its existence.

The contract between HMRC's Valuation Office Agency and Rightmove, states that Rightmove is bound by the Official Secrets Act and all its staff must sign a confidentiality agreement.

Rightmove keeps data on 16 million properties, and added 3.3 million records to its files in December.

Eric Pickles MP, the Tory shadow secretary of state for local government, said:

"The public will be alarmed that detailed information on 9 out of 10 house sales and rentals are secretly being passed from estate agents to tax spies without the public's knowledge or agreement. This is a shocking sign of the growing surveillance state under Gordon Brown."

The government claims that the contract was simply part of its efforts to keep records up to date.

They would say that wouldn't they?

The solution for the taxpayers of Britain is to boycott Rightmove. That will kill off this contract pdq.

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Tuesday 29 January 2008

The Dog's Dinner

The Dog's DinnerHMRC, and its masters in the government, are facing a backlash from tax professionals about the draft legislation on tax hikes for non-domiciles.

Mike Warburton, Grant Thornton senior tax partner, made a succinct point describing the arrangements for non-doms as a "dog's dinner".

He noted that US bankers, who make up a large proportion of those who claim non-dom status, would face a doubling of their tax liabilities under the new rules.

Needless to say this would mean that many would consider moving elsewhere, with a consequent diminution in tax take and reduction in economic contribution to the UK economy.

In other words, the new rules would be detrimental to the UK.

Taxation and the HMRC should not be used as a tool of politicians to satisfy their own personal prejudices. Taxation and the HMRC should only be used to collect revenue necessary to fund approved government expenditure.

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Monday 28 January 2008

Animal Farm

Animal Farm
How refreshing to see that the upper echelons of HMRC are well read and cultured. It seems that they are fans of George Orwell, in particular his work "Animal Farm". In this story the animals take over the farm; the pigs then betray the other animals and impose a dictatorship, using the following slogan to justify their actions:

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Thus it appears to be with HMRC's rules wrt their online filing system. As from this year, anyone wishing to file a self-assessment tax return after October will have to do so online or face stiff penalties.

The fact that, given the recent spate of security blunders within HMRC, many people may well have doubts about the integrity of the online system is ignored by those in HMRC imposing this rule.

However, all is not lost for the humble taxpayer.

HMRC do have special security arrangements in place that ensure that "special" people are excluded from having to file their returns online. In fact, even if these "special people" wanted to file on line, they couldn't; as the security protocols prevent them from doing so.

Who are these "special people"?

None other than:

-The royal family

How reassuring to know that people such as Peter Hain, Pete Doherty and Prince Edward all receive special treatment. Unfortunately, the plebs such as you and I are not afforded such special treatment.

Now you might well ask why people such as MPs should be afforded such special treatment, and why they are subject to extra security protocols.

The answer is simple, HMRC do not have confidence in the security of their own online tax filing system.

Tax records contain NI numbers, bank account and salary details which are all valuable to fraudsters. HMRC do not want fraudsters obtaining the personal details of MPs, celebs and royals; they are not bothered if the rest of us have our details nicked.

This lack of care over our security details is evidenced by the fact that they lost the personal details of 25 million child benefit claimants.

The question that HMRC need to answer is this:

Do you have a system that can guarantee confidentiality for all taxpayers, or not?

It would seem, that by excluding "special people" from the online system, HMRC do not believe that they do have a secure system.

Notwithstanding this, HMRC claim that all taxpayers' details are secure.

They would, wouldn't they?

This claim is of course contradicted by the fact that they exclude MP's et al from online filing, and the fact that there have been numerous security blunders.

As Orwell said:

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Saturday 26 January 2008

Back To The Stoneage

Back To The StoneageI understand from my sources that HMRC is so rattled by the data loss problems that it has been experiencing, that it is now attempting to "improve" its internal security.

-More firewalls?

-Improved procedures?

-Upgrading systems?

-Encrypting discs?

Errmmm not quite.

HMRC's "new" policy allows them to use second class post (how many credit cards get "lost" by our world class post office?).

Not very secure so far is it?

However, here is the really cunning part of the plan; designed to stop security breaches once and for all.

Revenue staff are now no longer allowed to use email or fax to communicate with the world.


A master stroke!

They are allowed to speak on the telephone, once the security checks have been done.

I guess that in the 21st century, reverting to stoneage methods of communication may well foil those criminals who use "sophisticated" methods to steal data. However, given:

- the workload of the HMRC,
- the staff cuts,
- the complexity of the tax rules
- and the fact that we live in the 21st century

I would have thought that HMRC staff should be allowed to use modern techniques and tools.

Stones and flints are really not the most effective tools for a 21st century organisation.

However, all is not lost, HMRC have allowed one modern technique to still be used. It is still possible for staff at HMRC to download databases onto discs, then send them by second class post.

What a fantastic organisation!

Coming soon, to an HMRC office near you, the semaphore.


HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Friday 25 January 2008

Where's The Minutes?

Where's The Minutes?Why are there no executive committee minutes published on the HMRC website after 12 June 2007?

Have they stopped having meetings, or is it that they don't want the humble taxpayer to read what they have been discussing?

Oh, my mistake, seemingly there haven't been any meetings since then:

"The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be on the 30th January 09.00AM, room 4/58.1, 100 Parliament Street, London."

Why the hell not?

They were pretty regular up until June, and there have been quite a few "issues" (resignations, datagate, possible strike action etc etc) arising since then.

Who's actually running this organisation?

Other meetings, or their minutes, seem to be on hold as well, eg:

- the last minutes posted for the Departmental Board meeting were dated August 2007

- the last minutes posted for the audit committee meeting were dated September 2006!

- the last minutes posted for the operating committee meeting were dated August 2006

What the hell's going on?

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Thursday 24 January 2008

The Price of Saying Sorry

The Price of Saying Sorry
It seems that the apology for last year's datagate fiasco has come at some considerable cost to HMRC.

They have admitted that it cost £2.25M to send letters of apology to people affected by the loss of 25 million child-benefit records.

It is a pity that so many of these went to the wrong people, or were lost, and were in fact a security risk in their own right.

The Treasury and HMRC claim that it was right to approach those affected individually.

Maybe so, but not in this manner.

The good news is that the £2.25M will not be borne by HMRC.

It will be borne by us, the taxpayers.

So that's alright then!
HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Wednesday 23 January 2008


PorkiesIt would seem that the questions over Stuart Cruickshank's sudden departure from HMRC (after only one year) won't die down.

The HMRC told The Times that:

"Stuart Cruickshank, the Revenue claims, was on a 'standard Civil Service fixed-term appointment contract' and was always expected to leave".

It would seem that someone was telling porkies, or at least allowing the impression to be given that the fixed term was only one year.

The truth is somewhat different, Cruickshank was on a 3 year contract, commencing on 18 December 2006.

Don't believe me?

Take a look at HMRC 2006–07 Accounts (page 21).

The accounts go on to say he and another Director General "have standard notice periods of three months from the employee and five weeks from the employer."

He quit after only one year.


HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

HMRC Plays Hide and Seek

HMRC Plays Hide and SeekHMRC likes to claim that it is very keen to "consult" with the hapless taxpayer and finance professional over new proposals. Unfortunately, the reality and practicality of interaction in this "consultation" process leaves something to be desired.

Links to two new consultation documents have not appeared in HMRC's "What's New" page in recent weeks. One of the consultations does not even appear on HMRC's "consultation" page, only making a guest appearance on the Treasury website.

The consultation entitled "Benefits in kind and expense payments in the payroll - a fresh approach" was published in December by HMRC, together with an impact assessment of "Including Benefits in Kind and Expense payments in the payroll."

HMRC's "What's New" showed details of the impact assessment, but no details of or links to the actual consultation.

HMRC's Stamp Taxes:Technical Newsletter - issue 6, appeared on the website on 16 January. It claimed that there has been a consultation document "Stamp duty land tax: ensuring fairness for all" in circulation for the last month.

HMRC claimed that:

"On 17 December 2007 the Government published a consultation document seeking views on its proposals. More details about this consultation can be found on the HM Treasury website".

This was not up on the HMRC site in December/early January, yet the closing date for consultation is 8th February.

Why is that then?

Are HMRC trying to cut down on the amount of interaction that they have with the taxpayer and finance professionals?

The government claims in its "consultations code" that consultation should last for a minimum of 12 weeks, yet HMRC does not follow that guidance.


-What are they afraid of?

-What are they trying to hide?

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Taking The Piss

Taking The PissNow here's an interesting story, in polite circles one might say that the HMRC is having a less polite circles, one would conjecture that they are taking the piss.

Given all that has happened over the past few months; wrt:

- lost data,
- resignations,
- strike ballots,
- botched reorganisations,
- lack of a CFO
- massive headcount cuts etc

a reasonable person might expect the HMRC to be focusing on rebuilding its shattered reputation, and improving its performance.

Well, as said, that's what a reasonable person might expect.

However, HMRC are taking a different view. They have proudly announced that they are advising African governments on how revenue bodies should develop an "effective relationship with major taxpayers and their advisers".

HMRC state that they will be advising their African counterparts to base their activities around, "commercial understanding, impartiality, proportionality, openness and responsiveness."

I can't disagree with that advice.

The question is, do the HMRC actually follow this advice though?

Some would argue that they don't.

A spokesman for the Professional Contractors Group's is quoted in the media:

"HMRC giving advice on impartiality and commercial understanding is a bit like Jade Goody opening a charm school."

As noted, shouldn't HMRC to be focusing on rebuilding its shattered reputation and improving its performance; rather than involving itself with Africa?

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Monday 21 January 2008

Audio Added

I have now added a text to audio feature to this site, this enables you to listen to the articles being read to you.

Unfortunately, it is in an American accent. However, the facility does allow you to download each article to iTunes and other readers.

Simply click the link in the top left of each article to listen.

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Discipline Needed

Discipline NeededThe recent shambles over "Datagate" and a marked decline in HMRC helpfulness and competence, as noted by tax advisers, taxpayers and finance professionals, has led to calls for greater discipline to be applied to HMRC underperformes.

A recent consultation exercise by HMRC has given rise to proposals that tax inspectors could be disciplined if they fail to follow official guidance. Other proposals called for HMRC to put more effort into helping taxpayers get things right, and allow deductions for legitimate compliance costs.

As Mike Warburton, tax partner of Grant Thornton, said:

"I am very supportive of this idea. The taxman is very quick to challenge advisers who mistakenly advise a client, so why shouldn't tax inspectors be held accountable for their errors in a similar way."

The principle of "sauce for the goose" is a most excellent basis from which to start rebuilding the shattered image of HMRC.

Advisers and taxpayers are of one mind, in their view that individual tax inspectors often develop interpretations that do not follow general guidance.

This is hardly surprising given the fact that guidance is often too complex, too hard to find and not updated regularly enough; neither the taxpayer nor inspector can understand it.

The blame for the complexity of the tax system lies full square with our Prime Minister, who for the last ten years has applied his own unique brand of micro management and love of detail to the hlepless corpse of the HMRC.

Until there is a fundamental change in the personality of Brown, or a change in Prime Minister, there will be no simplification of the tax system and corresponding improvement in the performance of HMRC.
HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Saturday 19 January 2008

Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction
As we rapidly approach the deadline (31 January) for the submission of tax forms etc, accountants and tax professionals around the country are beavering away working their way through the myriad of forms and rules that HMRC imposes upon the taxpayers of Britain.

Suffice to say this is a rather busy time of the year for tax professionals, and they can do without interruptions and distractions.

I was therefore rather "surprised" to receive an email from a fellow accountant who told me that HMRC are currently conducting telephone Customer Satisfaction Surveys of accountants and agents this month.

He told me that a very nice young lady had telephoned one of his partners yesterday asking if he would care to take part in a 10 minute telephone survey, assessing their working relationship with HMRC.

When told that they were too busy to speak to her on that day, would she mind telephoning back in February, the reply was that the Revenue want the survey conducting Friday or Monday so that they can assess the results by the month end!

Do the HMRC actually understand what people have to do to complete their tax forms?

Does this mean that non replies will allow HMRC will award themselves a "satisfactory" response?

Why the rush?

It seems to me that this is another rushed "initiative" from HMRC to try to appease their political masters, and convince Brown/Darling and the taxpayer that HMRC is a responsive "customer focused" organisation.

It hasn't!

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Friday 18 January 2008

Cock Ups Continue

Cock Ups ContinueOh dear, another day, another cock up.

Poor old HMRC, it just can't seem to get its act together these days.

It seems that Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue (HMRC) has had to apologise (again!) to taxpayers. This time the tens of thousands of self-assessment taxpayers were on the receiving end of the apology, seemingly HMRC did not send them their final payment reminders in December.

Why was that then I wonder?

Down the pub maybe?

Too busy looking for lost data discs?

To add to HMRC's humiliation, it also had to apologise for sending blank payment slips to thousands of people who filed online and have a tax liability.

A computer glitch maybe?

Notwithstanding the above cock ups, HMRC are sticking to the line that taxpayers still have a legal responsibility to pay their bill by the January 31 deadline.

Don't forget that there is also the possibility of a strike on that day.

HMRC issued the following statement:

"Some self-assessment statements due to be sent to customers in December 2007 were not issued. We are also aware that some of those customers have subsequently received one of our general payment reminders (SA309C) with a blank payment slip. We are very sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused."

All very well, but do they actually know why they screwed up again?

Have they taken measures to ensure that it won't happen again?

Will they be telling the people who pay their salaries (ie us) why they screwed up?

Will Her Majesty, who has the embarrassment of having her name attached to this ramshackle organisation, be removing her "patronage"?
HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Thursday 17 January 2008

Villain of The Year

Villain of The Year-Head of HMRC
Congratulations to HMRC for being nominated for the prestigious Internet Villain of The Year Award 2007.

The award is provided by the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), every year ISPA holds an awards ceremony to honour the good and the bad in the world of the web.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was nominated for the Villain of the Year award for "failing to take the protection of peoples' personal data seriously and highlighting bad practice in protecting data by losing computer disks containing confidential details of 25 million child benefit recipients."

I am sure that we all wish HMRC well with this award (well deserved I would say), and hope that they win it when the results are announced on 14th March 2008. is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Debt Collecting

Debt CollectingAs for all the heavily indebted taxpayers of Britain, the New Year has brought the dear old HMRC something of a debt hangover.

Last year's extravagance, namely mounting the largest and most costly police investigation ever for lost property has now come back to haunt the HMRC.

Scotland Yard is demanding that HM Revenue & Customs foots this record bill for the police force's hunt for the missing data discs, containing 25 million child-benefit records.

The Metropolitan Police stated that it will seek full costs from HMRC.

The investigation has cost tens of thousands of pounds, and has used more resources than would be used in a major murder investigation.

The HMRC had previously guaranteed to cover the "incremental" costs of the police investigation, such as overtime, accommodation and travel expenses.

At one point the police had 47 detectives from the Specialist and Economic Crime Command on the job.

They searched NAO offices, two HMRC premises and other government buildings, the Royal Mail depot in Belfast, four TNT depots and a rubbish tip in Kent.

The discs were never found.

However, HMRC are not worried.

Why should they?

The taxpayer will end up footing the bill.

HMRC Is Shite ( is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Back To The Future

Back To The FutureYou know the old saying "What goes around, comes around"?

Well, HMRC are putting it into practice using their recent summary of responses to last year's consultation papers as an excuse.

HMRC have proudly announced that they will begin the process of working with interested parties on the development of a Taxpayers' Charter, which will set out both taxpayer rights and responsibilities in a single document.

That's fine and dandy.

One small point, HMRC had one of these charters before...but withdrew it.

The IR167 Charter for Inland Revenue Taxpayers was withdrawn on 23 June 2003, and replaced by 'Customer Service Standards' which were of little use to man or beast.

Why then are HMRC trumpeting their charter announcement as though it was a fresh, innovative idea?

An attempt at spin perhaps? is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Monday 14 January 2008

Here's Johnny

Here's Johnny
In one small piece of good news for the hapless taxpayer, it has been announced that HMRC has backed down on plans to make unannounced visits to private residences.

HMRC had wanted to update its powers, and be able to enter private homes without a search warrant. This of course is contrary to the principles of English law laid down over the centuries.

However, the resulting furore that these plans had unleashed has caused HMRC to back down. In its latest consultation papers it states that visits would only be by agreement, or with a warrant.

HMRC is getting above itself, the state most assuredly should not have unrestricted access to people's homes. is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Saturday 12 January 2008

The Inept Battery Farm

HMRCThose of you who were beginning to worry about the cost of what has now become (according to Scotland Yard) the most expensive post property search ever known, need not worry any longer.

Police have given up on the search for the missing Customs and Revenue discs containing personal details of 25 million people.

The final bill for this fruitless search is expected to come into many millions of pounds.

However, HMRC is not worried, as it is only taxpayers' money.

The search did come up with some useful information. Specifically, it highlighted how abysmal the day to operations and organisation of HMRC really are.

Officers found unrelated mislaid documents "stuffed away in cupboards".

The original team of investigators consisted of 46 detectives, this was then cut to 32, plus many other specialists.

The Telegraph quotes a Scotland Yard source:

"There was a lot of pressure to find the discs and vast resources thrown at it - more than you would see used in a major murder investigation."

The overall opinion of Scotland Yard, as to the "quality" of the HMRC centre where the discs were lost in Washington, Tyne and Wear was:

"an inept battery farm of civil servants, where no one knows what the person on the next desk is doing".

That just about sums up the quality of HMRC and this government.

The police also noted that, contrary to the Chancellor's claims, several people knew about the lost discs, including senior managers.

A government minister lying, and trying to blame a junior!

Surely not?

What a disgrace! is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Friday 11 January 2008

Rewarding Failure

Rewarding Failure
In the rarefied world of Whitehall, where reality has yet to cross the threshold of those hallowed corridors, rewarding failure is second nature to the politicians and civil servants who inhabit its warrens and bunkers.

Therefore it should come as no surprise to learn that, following hot on the heals of Richard Summersgill receiving a CBE and Paul Gray being re employed, staff in HMRC who lost the personal details of 25 million families have received a £19M performance-related bonus.

Some of the payments, worth up to £8K each, were made at the end of November; just after Datagate.

I would note that HMRC has publicly stated that there have been seven data breaches since April 2005 (there may well of course be others that have yet to be discovered/announced).

The good news for the staff of HMRC is that the payout is 70% up on the previous year, which was a mere £11M.

Value for money indeed, and doubtless well "deserved"!

Figures released show 220 senior HMRC staff received bonuses for 2006-7 worth £1.7M, an average of £8K each.

Nearly 38,000 other workers received bonuses worth £17.2M, an average of £453 each.

Those of you who are worried that, given the data losses and shambles over tax credits, these payments are not actually deserved need not fear.

Jane Kennedy, a Treasury minister, said that the increase was the result of a "pay assimilation exercise" after HM Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue merged in 2005.

In other words it's not a bonus at all.

So that's alright then, isn't it?

It is, after all, only taxpayers' money! is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Thursday 10 January 2008

The Sweet Smell of Bullshit

The Sweet Smell of Bullshit
I am not alone in thinking that the sudden and "hush hush" (hush hush until it leaked) departure of Stuart Cruickshank (CFO of HMRC) stinks.

Martin Waller of The Times does not think the HMRC version of events holds any water at all.

"...HMRC's version of events is increasingly leaking water. Stuart Cruickshank, the Revenue claims, was on a 'standard Civil Service fixed-term appointment contract' and was always expected to leave. After 15 months? An odd fixed term....

HMRC is sticking to its fiction in the light off the above, but it simply doesn't hold up

-Why has Cruickshank gone after such a short period in office?

-Has he been paid off?

Would someone on the inside of HMRC care to drop me a line with the real story here please?

I guarantee your anonymity. is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Data Protection

Data Protection
How reassuring to learn that, following on from last year's Datagate Debacle, HMRC has finally learned to be careful with individuals' personal data (or at least one individual's personal data, at any rate).

Martin Waller of The Times made some enquiries yesterday about the rather sudden, and hush hush, departure of Stuart Cruickshank (HMRC Finance Director) after only a year in the job.

When asked by Martin as to whether Cruickshank would be receiving a payoff (funded naturally by the hapless taxpayer), he was told by our ever open friends in HMRC:

"We cannot comment on the individual terms of any specific contract."

Well, as said, it is nice to see that HMRC is finally learning how to protect an individual's personal data. It is a pity though that they have forgotten the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and the fact that they work for us.

Here's an idea, why don't we all write to HMRC asking them to provide details of Cruickshank's payoff, and remind them of the FOIA?

I would like to provide an email link with their email address. Unfortunately, for reasons best known to themselves, HMRC do not want you to send them emails. is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Resignation II

Further to my earlier article today about the resignation (or "planned departure") of Stuart Cruickshank (CFO of HMRC), I am advised by one of my chums that the intranet announcement that went around HMRC yesterday quoted the acting chairman of HMRC saying that the process of finding a successor will start "shortly".

Errmmm...shouldn't they have started this a little bit earlier, especially if they knew that the guy was only on a one year contract?

It sounds to me as though neither HMRC, nor Cruickshank, knew that he was going to be leaving quite so quickly.

What a mess!

Where do I apply? is brought to you by "The Living Brand"


Stuart Cruickshank joined HMRC as CFO in December 2006, one year on it is reported in Accountancy Age that he is leaving in March to take up a number of public and private roles. There is no successor as yet.

Now here is the rather odd thing about this, it seems that his contract was only for one year.

-Why such a short tenure?

-How much has this cost the taxpayer to bring him on board, train him up then lose him?

-Why does the HMRC site not mention this yet?

-Will he be receiving a pay off?

-Given that at the outset it was known that he would only be around for one year, why has no successor been found?

-The really odd thing is that reading page 12 of The Gasette (The magazine for government finance professionals) Autumn 2007, I get the distinct impression that Cruickshank, and indeed The Gasette, thought that he would be around for longer than a year.

HMRC now have only an acting chairman, and no CFO.

What an excellent way to run an organisation! is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Monday 7 January 2008

HMRC Really Is Shite

I am not alone in thinking that HMRC is shite.

Nick Morgan wrote to me about his site

As you can see, he has had to endure a hell of a lot from HMRC. is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Friday 4 January 2008


Strike!Oh dear, all is not well in the HMRC......sorry I have just realised what I have said there, rather obvious that things are not well in HMRC isn't it?

It is reported that the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union will next week begin balloting members on possible strike action, to protest at continuing redundancies at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

The PCS's HMRC group executive committee is asking all members within HMRC to vote yes to the proposed action.

Needless to say the PCS union has blamed job losses, budget cuts, and reorganisation for the loss of the child benefit database in November. This excuse is of course total nonsense.

The reason that the data was lost was because HMRC did not have adequate procedures in place for handling data, and those controls that were in operation were not being adequately followed.

Nothing at all to do with reorganisation, but everything to do with the lax attitude to the security of taxpayers' data, which comes from the very top of the organisation.

The PCS is asking its members:

"to take part in one day's strike action on Thursday 31 January 2008 and action short of strike action, from the following day, should this be necessary depending on the outcome of further negotiations".

A cynic might argue that the hard pressed taxpayer will not notice anything if HMRC goes on strike on these two days. However, 31 January is the deadline for self assessment; miss that, and you are liable for a £100 fine.

What's the betting that those whose self assessments that get caught up in the confusion of the strike will be landed with a fine?

Simplify the tax system and cut the HMRC down to size! is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Thursday 3 January 2008

Sue Them

RumpoleIt seems that the personal data scandal may be far worse than the Government has admitted, according to the Telegraph.

Recklessly or repeatedly mishandling personal information should become a criminal offence, a committee of MPs urges today in the wake of the datagate scandal.

Alan Beith, chairman of the committee, said:

"It is frankly incredible, for example, that the measures HMRC has now put in place were not already standard procedure."


Why therefore are the people responsible not being sacked and sued for negligence? is brought to you by "The Living Brand"

Tuesday 1 January 2008

Gongs For The Boys

Gongs For The Boys
Why is Richard Summersgill, the head of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)'s child benefit section, receiving a CBE?

The tax credit system under Summersgill's remit costs us the taxpayers £1BN a year, and is recognised as being a total shambles.

Why should this man be honoured for failure? is brought to you by "The Living Brand"