Taxman’s property partner to open books

The offshore company at the centre of the taxman’s strategy to save £1.2bn in
property rental fees is to open up its books – so HM Revenue & Customs can
confirm it received a good deal.

Mapeley, which bought ownership or leases on 60% of HMRC’s estate, will allow
the taxman access to confidential accounts to deflect criticism about the
controversial deal not achieving cost savings it promised.

The taxman was hoping to save £1.1bn-£1.2bn but instead managed about £900m.

Senior HMRC figures, inc­luding chief executive Leslie Strathie and permanent
secretary Dave Hartnett, were called in front of the Public Accounts Committee
(PAC) last week to explain what progress had been made.

Asked whether Mapeley would allow HMRC access to its figures, chief executive
Nick Friedlos said: “I can assure the committee of that. We’ve asked the
government to consider one or two safeguards around Freedom of Information in
protecting the data.”

HMRC came under fire for the deal, signed in 2001, as Mapeley was based
offshore, leading to criticisms the department charged with protecting the tax
take was contributing to money leaving the UK.

A National Audit Office report, which provided the key details used by the
committee in the meeting, said HMRC had the opportunity to save up to £1.2bn by
reducing the size of their estate, but had lacked a long-term plan to do so and
failed to achieve all available savings.

The NAO also warned that proposals now to vacate a significant number of
buildings by 2011 create “areas of specific financial pressure for Mapeley”.

Strathie said: “We have proposals from Mapeley on greater insight into
[transparency] but it is beyond what are they are required to do in the

PAC is set to release a written response to the meeting in March, a spokesman

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