PROTESTERS objecting to ‘sweetheart’ tax deals struck between the taxman and big business gate-crashed the retirement party for former head of the department, Dave Hartnett, in order to goad him over the issue.
As Hartnett (pictured) was addressing assembled tax lawyers and accountants discussing tax avoidance loopholes at New College, Oxford, the protesters – who dubbed themselves WeAreIntruders – arrived in black tie attire, posing as representatives of investment bank Goldman Sachs and telecoms giant Vodafone.
They presented him with a ‘lifetime achievement award for services to corporate tax planning’ and a bouquet of flowers.
The exchange, which was filmed and posted on Youtube, was greeted with applause from diners who initially thought the award was legitimate before a tax barrister realised the group was uninvited and ushered its members out of the hall.
As they were ejected, the group broke into a rendition of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, gleefully substituting the line “so say all of us” for “so say Goldman Sachs” as Hartnett watched on in silence.
The barrister can be heard branding the group “trespassing scum” and threatening to “set the dogs on” them.
Hartnett left HM Revenue & Customs this summer and attracted criticism during his tenure for the ‘sweetheart’ tax settlements reached with five parties, including Goldman Sachs and Vodafone.
Protesters, including UK Uncut, claim the deals cost the public purse millions – in particular the Goldman Sachs settlement, which it challenged in court, claiming the Revenue let the bank off £20m in interest.
However, a report by the National Audit Office cleared HMRC of any wrongdoing, ruling that all five settlements had seen a “reasonable” outcome for the public coffers.
It did, however, criticise the process by which those deals were struck, flagging up a lack of clarity.
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