HMRC panned by Parliamentary Committee
The self-employed and small businesses of the UK have always felt, rightly or wrongly, victimised by Revenue and Customs. And the people of this nation have always believed that there are dual standards: one law for the rich and one for the poor; one set of rules for government and another for governed.
They may not be wrong. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee – Sixty-First Report is a bombshell. It states:
The Department [HMRC] is not being even handed in its treatment of taxpayers. It is unfair that large companies can settle their tax disputes with the advice of professionals at less than the full amount due and that they have been allowed up to 10 years to pay their tax liabilities, while small businesses and individuals on tax credits are not allowed similar leeway.
But that’s not the half of it. Other criticisms include
- The Department chose to depart from normal governance procedures in several cases, which allowed Commissioners to sign off on settlements that they themselves negotiated.
- Governance procedures have lacked the independence and transparency needed to provide sufficient assurance to Parliament.
- The Department’s failure to comply with its own processes resulted in a substantial amount of money being lost to the Exchequer.
- Those at the top of the Department have not taken personal responsibility for serious errors.
- The Department has left itself open to suspicion that its relationships with large companies are too cosy.
I’d be interested to know the legal distinction between ‘cosy’ and ‘corrupt’. I suspect that a lawyer could explain a vast difference; but a taxpayer will discern very little.