At a recent conference held in London, Hartnett praised businesses for
improving their approach to tax compliance, but gave tax advisers a stern
dressing-down for not doing enough to follow the example of their corporate
Hartnett said that while businesses had begun to realise that serious tax
disputes were expensive and risky, tax advisers had been less enthusiastic about
strengthening their ties with HMRC.
‘The gap between HMRC and business is closing, but advisers are attempting to
force a wedge between the two,’ Hartnett said. ‘Many companies have changed
their business models to comply with disclosure rules; advisers still have some
way to go. If corporates can change, then advisers can change too.’
The comments from Hartnett, who is well known for pressuring advisers, came
as no surprise to tax experts. There is frustration between HMRC and advisers at
Francesca Lagerberg, chairman of the ICAEW’s tax faculty, said: ‘Both sides
have frustrations with each other, especially over things like inadequate
consultations and lower-level issues that may seem minor but can cause huge
problems on a day-to-day basis.’
Some advisers take a stronger line – that Hartnett’s views are just blame
‘HMRC does have an opportunity to draw attention to any issues it has and is
able to comment. HMRC is going through a reorganisation and has to work through
masses of legislation, so sometimes it is easier to lay the blame elsewhere,’
said Chartered Institute of Taxation president John Cullinane.
Advisers can hardly be blamed for drawing attention to opportunities for
their clients, while stressing their risks.
That may irritate Hartnett, but he should remember that clients can sue their
advisers if they believe they have been negligent.
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