How much worse can public confidence in HMRC get?

Following years of front page stories of personal and corporate tax avoidance, damaging allegations of sweetheart deals with major global banks and telecommunications firms, multi-billion pound shortfalls on projected receipts from tax amnesties cut with Switzerland, and the absence of criminal prosecutions for tax evasion, you’ve gotta wonder quite how much worse public confidence in HMRC can get.

The explanation for the latest in these public relations disasters – the absence of criminal prosecutions – is apparently that HMRC cut a deal with the French authorities for use of the HSBC data that limited the extent to which it could be used to support criminal prosecutions. But what puzzles me is (1) why the French would be interested in imposing such a restraint on our use of that data. Their banks weren’t implicated after all; and (2) if that is the cause of the lack of criminal prosecutions how we’ve nevertheless managed one?

Raising further questions about that explanation is the fact that Article 27 of the UK-France Double Tax Convention requires each party to exchange information “to prevent fraud”.


So that’s one set of questions we need answers to from HMRC

Another is this statement released at the time we cut the amnesty with Switzerland in March 2012.


Why not? Why should we tie our hands as to how we gather evidence of people evading UK taxes?

No substantive answers, yet, to these sets of questions.

In terms of process, HMRC’s response to these issues of profound public concern has been to pull the man responsible for “shaping tax policy and strategy” from this afternoon’s Public Accounts Committee session, to ignore the question ‘why’? and to fail to offer up to the Committee the woman responsible for ensuring that “HMRC successfully collects the full and correct amount of money due from UK taxpayers [and] investigates offences against the UK tax system”.

How much worse? Quite a lot worse.


Postscript HMRC’s Press Office have just sent me the following statement denying that Edward Troup was ever slated to give evidence. That may or may not be right (Post-postscript: see below – it appears not to be) but it’s hardly the point. He should have been slated and he should be giving evidence.


HMRC’s Press Office now say that Jennie Granger was always slated to appear. My mistake (no mention of this was made in the Telegraph report). But if one looks at the Public Accounts Committee listing for this afternoon’s hearing


you will see that, consistently with what the Press Office say, Jennie Granger will appear but inconsistently with what they say Edward Troup was slated to appear.

The twitter exchange between me and HMRC’s Press Office can be seen here:

6 thoughts on “How much worse can public confidence in HMRC get?

  1. Surely you are not suggesting that the UK government should encourage theft?

  2. Am trying manfully to resist getting all Richard Murphy with you. There. Managed it.

  3. Thank you Narnia – and apologies for not thanking you sooner. Not perfectly my field, as you’re politely not saying

  4. Sorry, but I don’t see what is wrong about not actively seeking to acquire stolen data. Ok, once the data is stolen, and it comes into your hands, you use it, but you don’t encourage or commission theft. Yes, tax fraud is very wrong. So is theft. You don’t need to steal data to blow a whistle.

    Surely the real issue is the failure of HSBC to impose proper systems and behaviour when it acquired its Swiss operations (with a similar failing in Mexico leading to very large fines in the US), and then the regulatory failure in the UK and Switzerland to require proper systems.

  5. Reblogged this on L8in.

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