Overview: taxing times ahead for Mike Clasper

The tax man has been grabbing his fair share of the limelight of late,
although probably for all the wrong reasons. He must be hoping the appointment
of a new chairman will draw a line in the sand over the lost data scandal.

What’s happened?

HM Revenue & Customs was quick to rush out its announcement that Mike
Clasper would be the new man at the top just 24 hours before publication of the
Poynter Review.

The loss of two CDs with 25m child benefit records on them last October led
to the resignation of HMRC’s former chairman Paul Gray in November.

Damningly, Kieran Poynter singled out ‘lack of management accountability’ as
the root cause for the security lapse.

What happens next?

Clasper has an impressive record in the private sector and for five years
headed up the running of seven UK airports as BAA chief executive. More recently
he was operational managing director of Terra Firma Capital Partners. This will
be useful given HMRC’s desire to clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly among
the private equity community.

He will work a three-day week and will provide oversight to the executive
committee and departmental board and engage the department’s many stakeholders.

His right hand man will be the widely respected Dave Hartnett, who moves to
the role of acting chief executive when Clasper takes up the reins in August.

HMRC is still actively searching in the public and private sector for a new

The tax office is keen to establish a simpler structure after criticism
following its capability review, which showed middle managers were unclear about
senior management’s vision for the department’s future.

HMRC has set about creating a clear top management structure with a new chief
executive position and clarifying the role of the chief information officer.
Until recently, this post was filled by Steve Lamey who, in October 2007, was pr
omoted to chief operating officer and is widely tipped as the possible future
chief executive.

However, while the department has a corporate structure with a board of
non-executive directors, many believe this could simply be window dressing.

‘I hope the government might have the courage to take the opportunity of this
appointment to set up a new kind of agency where non-executives have real powers
and duties enabling ministers to be more hands-off on day-to-day issues than in
the past,’ said Sir Nick Montagu, a former chairman of the Inland Revenue.

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