Over the past year or so, the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Select Committee has been checking on our tax collectors, HMRC. Today’s news, Call for corporate tax clampdown, is missing the point, really. The problem is not the companies dodging the tax – even Joe the Plumber is at it!
The problem is the incompetencies within HMRC.
Have a look! It’s not as revealing as you’d want. In fact there is no detail at all!
The problem is supposed to be lots of companies avoiding the payment of corporation tax. “Simple!”, you’d think! “who are they?”
Now check Question 25 in the cross examination on page 25 of the report..
Q25 Mr Touhig: So you cannot tell us which
companies are using methods of tax avoidance?
Mr Hartnett: I think we can help you with some
details about this, but listing this company by
company in the sort of detail you are now asking is
very difficult indeed.
Q. So if this is the case, how do they manage to produce a nice graph like this?
Answer. It’s bollocks that’s how. They know who they are and how much they’ve dodged. The chart and the answer to Q25 above are mutually exclusive statements from the same department!
All they have to do is compare tax against the bottom line. It’s not rocket science…
And neither is it Latin or Roman Social History.
And within that statement lies the whole problem with government and the civil service.
Apart from a few TSOs in Environment or whatever on 25k, usually derisively called “boffins” by senior management, the whole edifice is staffed by yes-men and women with no technical knowledge whatsoever about the subject they are supposed to be managing.
The same goes for almost all ministers and all departments – I’ve mentioned several in previous postings. In this increasingly technical and sophisticated world, the people in charge are not technical and are only sophisticated at elevating themselves into positions of power.
But being powerful does not make them good at solving problems or even organising people to solve problems. This is because they do not understand the problem in the first place and thus are completely incapable of thinking of a suitable plan to solve the problem.
So much for our meritocracy.
Mr Hartnett CB (above), studied Latin and Roman Social History and is in charge of tax.