HMRC boss targeted by tax protestors
Protestors will gather at the head offices of HMRC today to call for the resignation of the organisation's boss Dave Hartnett (left). A midday march from the Occupy LSX protest outside St Paul's will be joined by supporters of anti-tax avoidance group UK Uncut. The protest follows the rough ride Hartnett was given by MPs last week at the Public Accounts Committee. They accused him of abusing his position to "cover up his own mistakes".
Hartnett's position has come under increasing pressure after revelations that he cut a deal with mobile phone giant Vodafone to let it off £6bn in tax, and another deal to let bank Goldman Sachs off £10m. MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the PAC, accused Hartnett of lying over the Goldman Sachs deal.
She quoted from minutes of an HMRC lawyers' meeting which said Hartnett had "shaken hands" on a settlement he brokered with three executives from the bank. But Hartnett told MPs: "I did not do a deal personally." Tory MP Jesse Norman said Hartnett's claims that HMRC never charged less than the tax owing had been shown "to be false" and called for his resignation.
Daily MailCriticism of Hartnett comes from across the spectrum. Writing in the Daily Mail, Alex Brummer observed: "There could not be a starker contrast between the indulgence with which Britain's top tax inspector, David Hartnett, treats the nation's corporate high rollers and the imperious demands for payment being issued to modest earners who have never attempted to dodge taxes."
Brummer says the fines imposed on ordinary taxpayers for filling in a tax return late contrast with late-payment decisions involving big names and millions of pounds which, he says, "are more likely to be made during a cosy meeting with tax officials over gourmet food washed down with the finest vintage claret."
Researchers at City University found that Hartnett is the most wined and dined civil servant in Whitehall. Between 2007 and 2009, Hartnett was entertained for breakfast, lunch or dinner 107 times by firms including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PriceWaterhouse Coopers and Deloitte.
UK UncutUK Uncut say Hartnett represents "a corrupt system, where the richest 1% are routinely allowed to scam and lobby their way out of paying their fair share. Whilst 99% of us pay our tax, super-rich corporations and individuals are getting away with scamming the rest of us out of £25bn a year."
Campaigners also point out that while the boss has been enjoying this hospitality, 25,000 HMRC staff have been cut, severely affecting the department's ability to function. In the Daily Mail, Brummer says Hartnett's tenure has "undermined public confidence in HMRC", raps his "arrogance" and slams what he calls an inability to give straight answers.