After confusion, government figures must be clearer

by Calum Fuller

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13 Dec 2013

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I MUST SAY, it took me a good while to get my head around the Whole of Government Accounts figures and the accompanying analysis from the Public Accounts Committee.

You see, as is so often the case, there were a great many similar but subtly different figures floating around, and it has led to a fair amount of conflation.

The main source of confusion has been figures for fraud and error reported by central government of £13.2bn, other sources provided estimates of losses - the National Fraud Authority of £20.6bn and HMRC of £35bn.

Many felt those final two figures directly correlated, and concluded a £55bn tax loss.

But after correspondence with the PAC, Accountancy Age has learned that isn't the case.

The PAC said: "All three sets of figures are prepared for different audiences at different times with different bases, including both actuals and estimates and there is a degree of overlap between all three with no single figure currently prepared to present a unified view."

No erroneous double-counting, then, and the PAC has called on the Treasury to "develop, publish and implement and action plan setting out a co-ordinated strategy to tackle fraud and error and report cross-government figures within the WGA" in order to provide that unified view.

Until then, though, we'll all have to make do with our wits.

Calum Fuller is the tax correspondent for Accountancy Age and Financial Director.

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