Hartnett clarifies Goldman Sachs confidentiality position

THE TAXMAN has reiterated its legal position that it does not have to disclose information regarding Goldman Sachs’ tax affairs to MPs.

MPs at the Public Accounts Committee admonished permanent secretary for tax Dave Hartnett for failing to disclose information around an error in dealing with the bank’s tax affairs that cost the Exchequer up to £8m. The HMRC commissioner claimed that he was legally not permitted to disclose the information.

The MPs said that HMRC is allowed to disclose when it is for the purpose of one of its functions. As reporting to Parliament is a function of HMRC, it should disclose information to the PAC.

Following a request from the MPs, Hartnett wrote to the committee explaining his reasoning for not disclosing. He said that, although HMRC will pass non-identifying information to select committees, information that identifies taxpayers is “much more sensitive”. He added: “If taxpayers believe that their information will be disclosed, it will make it very difficult for us to collect tax.”

The letter added that information is given to the National Audit Office, a parliamentary body that also has a duty of confidentiality, unlike a Commons committee.

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