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New HMRC exec chair outlines priorities to PAC

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HMRC LEADER Edward Troup has pledged to stamp out tax avoidance and evasion, making the department more accountable for its performance and improving customer service.

The executive chair laid out the newly-formed hierarchy of HMRC in a published letter to Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier, with himself leading the board and former MoD permanent secretary Jon Thompson to serve under him as chief executive.

Troup and Thompson have become leaders of the government department following the departure of former chief exec Lin Homer.

Leading HMRC’s transformation programme

As chief executive, Thompson will be in charge of managing the department’s strategy and holding the executive team to account for the department’s performance, which has come under strain recently following its £130m settlement with Google over the search engine’s back taxes.

The former Ofsted finance director will also be responsible for leading HMRC’s transformation programme, objectives and performance, while also being accountable for improving customer service and managing the department’s budget. He also chairs HMRC’s executive committee, which Troup is a member of.

Serving as executive chair, Troup will “lead on providing tax policy advice to ministers and overseeing our relationship with HM Treasury”. He also touched on HMRC’s plans to close down 137 regional offices in favour of 13 regional centres, stating that its Croydon office is set to open in 2017.

Under strain

Troup states that combing HMRC’s “customer service excellence” with its central role in tax, the government department can “create a tax, customs and payments authority fit for the future – smaller, more highly-skilled and offering modern, digital services”.

HMRC has come under recent criticism over its ‘Making Tax Digital Initiative’, with some experts claiming that the taxman will have to up its game when introducing such a massive digital transformation to millions of self-employed workers and small businesses.

“It’s an IT project, need we say any more. HMRC does not have a strong track record of delivering IT to the masses. If we take RTI for example, to quote one of their very senior members, ‘real time doesn’t actually mean real time,’” claims Elaine Clark, founder of CheapAccounting.co.uk.

Jonathan Riley, head of tax at grant Thornton, told Accountancy Age in February that HMRC’s decision to split top-level duties between Thompson and Troup could produce conflicts between high executive staff further down the line.

“This split in role could create tensions – operations versus policy. Working together is going to be critical,” said Riley.

“The fact that the role is quite clearly split is interesting. Thompson’s brief seems to be operations, probably with a focus on the need to implement digital effectively and efficiently – this being the cornerstone of the government’s approach to tax and very dear to the financial secretary’s heart.”

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