Reducing the tax gap, currently estimated at £26bn, or 8% of the total tax take, will be one of the main areas of concentration for the board of the new tax gathering body.
‘Information sharing is good news for honest taxpayers and extremely bad news for dishonest taxpayers,’ permanent secretary to the Treasury Gus O’Donnell told a House of Commons select committee last week. But he did not tell MPs just how much the merged tax collector would be aiming to claw back.
‘It’s something I want the new board to set,’ he added.
O’Donnell’s comments go someway to explain Gordon Brown’s reason for bringing together the Revenue and Customs despite years of resistance from the departments.
MPs were concerned that consolidating the two to increase information sharing could threaten the confidentiality of taxpayers’ records.
Tory MP David Heathcoat-Amory said that ‘taxpayer confidentiality is extremely important’ if the department’s powers are not to be misused.
‘Maintaining taxpayer confidentiality is vital, and the chancellor has said it is vital,’ said O’Donnell. ‘Our computer systems will not be able to interact with theirs and we will ensure there is no access for the Treasury.’
The Treasury this week also began the search for a chief information officer who will be responsible for much of Brown’s vision of improved information sharing. O’Donnell described the appointment of a CIO as ‘crucial’ for the merger.
Treasury attempts to claw back some of that £26bn include its ferocious clampdown on tax avoidance. New disclosure rules were due to be published today, before being debated by a standing committee next month.
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