Hartnett urges advisers to ‘stop moaning’

Speaking at last week’s annual ICAEW Wyman Symposium, HMRC director general
Dave Hartnett made a colourful speech in which he pleaded with the profession to
stop complaining about the taxman’s performance.

‘Tax administrators want advisers to take a deep breath and stop complaining.
My colleagues feel oppressed by constant criticism,’ said Hartnett.

His comments follow what many described as a low point in relations between
advisers and the taxman.

Advisers have been dismayed that experienced tax inspectors were lost during
HMRC’s ongoing efficiency programme and have accused the taxman of acting more
aggressively following the merger of the Inland Revenue and Customs &

Hartnett has often said that the profession needs to help the taxman more in
the fight against tax avoidance.

But he went even further than claiming HMRC had had enough of complaints. He
said that every country involved in a recent OECD project believed that tax
advisers and their actions had an adverse effect on government budgets.

‘Without reservation they think advisers had undermined spending plans by
governments,’ Hartnett said.

But Hartnett sought a reconciliation with the tax profession and extolled
their importance saying everyone needed to focus on ‘mutual trust and

Hartnett said the Working Together project for tax inspectors and tax
advisers to collaborate would be revitalised after recently falling by the

Smith & Williamson tax partner Richard Mannion said reaction to
Hartnett’s themes was positive, but warned that it was ‘ridiculous’ for the
government to continue pushing HMRC to reduce headcount while driving for

‘It’s short-sighted,’ said Mannion.

He also disagreed with Hartnett about the level of accountants’ complaints:
‘I don’t agree we just whinge, saying “this is what went wrong” can be a case
study to put things right.’

Mannion said he was highly delighted to hear Working Together referenced
during the event and called on HMRC to meet its pledge.

‘I’ve never had any doubts that when [the system] doesn’t work it costs
everyone money. They need the best brains to work on it.’

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