From The Guardian:
"Audit office attacks tax deals for corporations
National Audit Office finds tax officials failed to seek proper legal advice while negotiating settlements with large companies.
The National Audit Office has found that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) did not seek proper legal advice, involve its own specialists or even take notes whilst negotiating settlements with large companies..."
Continued on http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jun/14/hmrc-tax-collection-failures-nao.
Now, Private Eye magazine has been following this story for MONTHS and reporting on it in nearly every issue so National Audit Office's findings come as no surprise to me. What does surprise me though is the next sentence in the piece:
"But despite these failings uncovered by the former High Court tax judge Sir Andrew Park, the NAO has concluded that five negotiated settlements which were the subject of the report were "reasonable" and fair to the public purse."
This comes across as a government department (the NAO) which has uncovered MILLIONS of pounds missing from the public purse (as companies were told they didn't have to pay it) trying to save face and avoid more embarrasment and shame. "Oh, but it's ok, the deals were 'reasonable'." Reasonable my foot, a later paragraph in the Guardian story reads:
"The report's findings may concern many ordinary taxpayers. Last year, it was alleged that companies such as Vodafone were not required to pay tax bills of up to £7bn following negotiations with Revenue and Customs while others such as Goldman Sachs have been let off up to £20m."
How on EARTH is any of that "reasonable and fair the public purse"? Even if the figures are out and Vodafone dodged only 4 billion, how is that reasonable??
Private Eye and the NAO have both pointed out that many of these important meetings, involving the taxes you and I slave away for, took place informally and no notes were kept. This was not an oversight. No notes were taken so that when the shit hit thte fan (as they probably guessed it would) nobody could get in trouble as there wouldn't be a paper-trail to follow. No paper-trail and, as we're seeing at the Leveson Enquiry, officials can lie all they like as they know we can't find the paper-trail as it's non-existent.
Dave Hartnett knew exactly what he was doing when he negotiated deals with Goldman Sachs and Vodafone in expensive restraunts in London (probably at meals paid for by Vodafone et al). Every step along the way he's been dodging and evading answering questions and it's shocking that the most senior tax collector in HMRC was able to act this way.
Incedentally, I just googled Dave Hartnetts name and the following story was top of Google's list:
Paying cash in hand is 'diddling the country', says HMRC's Dave Hartnett
People who pay cash in hand to tradesmen are “diddling” the economy and diverting money from hospitals and schools, the country’s most senior taxman, Dave Hartnett, has warned.
From http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/tax/9043087/Paying-cash-in-hand-is-diddling-the-country-says-HMRCs-Dave-Hartnett.html (Jan 2012)
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Hartnett says that householders have a duty to ensure that other people do not evade paying their share of tax...
Oh the irony, it burns, it burns!!
Apparently Mr Hartnett is retiring this summer. Not a day too damn soon.