TaxPersonal TaxRevenue’s little success story

Revenue's little success story

It would be stating the obvious to point out that the Inland Revenue is nobody's favourite government department. Sure, Sir Nick Montagu, Revenue chairman, may like it, but then he's built a career out of it.

No, it’s generally unloved and that for the very simple reason that this is the body that takes money out of our wallets each month when the payslip comes in. Of course it does this for good reason. If we want public services we have to pay for them and we have invested power in politicians to decide the tax rates we should pay and what the money should be spent on. The Revenue is the collector who decides whether we are paying the right amount.

Don’t shoot the messenger then, right? Well, it’s not as easy as that, and a couple of current issues demonstrate that.

The Revenue has a little success story to boast about at the moment that is attracting little press. After hiccups, bugs and false starts online self assessment is really taking off. The total number of people filing online now stands at 324,000 for this year – more than four times the previous year’s 70,000. Online filing is actually beginning to look like a success.

On the other hand everyone is gunning for the Revenue over the tax paid by big business. In short, people believe the Revenue’s gone soft on the tax paid by large companies. Stephen Jones, head of the Revenue’s large business unit denies it. Sir Nick, chairman of the board, denies it. But there are some, who just don’t believe it.

What’s the truth? I can’t tell you. We know for sure that the Revenue is working on shutting down big and expensive avoidance schemes. What we don’t know for sure is what they consider to be ‘avoidance’.

The lesson is that the Revenue has a complex story to sell to the public and sometimes it doesn’t matter what’s going on, we are so conditioned to dislike them we’re never going to listen.

However, that should never be an excuse for the Revenue not to keep trying.

  • Gavin Hinks is news editor at Accountancy Age.

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