Big business should share HMRC’s burden, says Hartnett

DAVE HARTNETT has urged big business to relieve HM Revenue & Customs from “bearing the brunt” of public anger by increasing their own transparency.

Permanent secretary for tax Hartnett, was the subject of a protest by UK Uncut at the LexisNexis Tax Journal conference on Wednesday concerning lost revenue from deals struck with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs.

After the protestors left the building, Hartnett told the conference: “Maybe I can make a single comment on that. At the moment, I and my colleagues are bearing the brunt of [the protest]. I think a challenge for business and those that advise business, is what you want to do if you value the relationship, because we are bearing it on our own.”

His statement was followed by a round of applause from the delegates.

Hartnett indicated that much of the controversy surrounding the Vodafone deal came because the sum that the phone company provisioned for the tax bill was significantly higher than the tax bill itself.

“It would be fantastic if business leaders who have a good understanding of provisioning and difficulties could say a bit more about why there is difficulty. I think everyone in this room understands it, but the public at large needs to understand it,” he said. “I think [UK Uncut] just don’t get it, or don’t want to get it. We could do with some help there.”

The “complete lack of transparency” in some accounts was “common”, he said. “All the developed countries have taxpayer confidentiality rules and we are all looking to big business to have greater transparency. Not to answer all questions, but to give [the public] a little more information to stop some of the problems that lack of transparency causes,” he concluded.

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