PROTESTERS were justified in gate-crashing an event at New College, Oxford, at which former HM Revenue & Customs head Dave Hartnett was speaking, according to respondents to an Accountancy Age poll.
Of the 112 responses, some 92% said the action taken by the WeAreIntuders protesters was completely reasonable, compared to the 1% who felt it was fair to some extent. About 3% felt the action was unfair, while 4% said it was entirely unwarranted.
The protesters – who object to so-called ‘sweetheart’ deals made with big business – arrived in black tie attire, posing as representatives of investment bank Goldman Sachs and telecoms giant Vodafone, before goading Hartnett (pictured) as he addressed assembled accountants and tax lawyers.
They presented him with a ‘lifetime achievement award for services to corporate tax planning’ and a bouquet of flowers before singing For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow – replacing the line “so say all of us” with “so say Goldman Sachs” – as they were ejected.
Hartnett retired from his HMRC role in the summer, and had been the subject of intense criticism over the tax settlements reached with five large corporations, 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, highlighting a lack of clarity.
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