‘Sweetheart’ deals brought in £4.5bn for HMRC

SO-CALLED ‘SWEETHEART’ DEALS struck between HM Revenue & Customs and multinational companies were worth more than £1bn each, it has emerged.

A haul of around £4.5bn was brought in through settlements reached with five companies after long-running tax disputes, according to a leaked document seen by the Guardian.

The document, sent by former HMRC chief executive Dave Hartnett to exchequer secretary David Gauke, disclosed the figure previously been withheld by HMRC due to taxpayer confidentiality.

It suggests deals in excess of £1bn were “not uncommon”, but the size of the figure has encouraged MPs and tax campaigners to pursue HMRC in their efforts to find out how much the companies originally owed.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee  told the Guardian: “If we got £4.5bn in, how much did we not get? That is what taxpayers will want to know, and I’ll be raising this with HMRC through the committee.”

All five deals, however, were found to be “reasonable” in June 2012 after a report produced by Sir Andrew Park for the National Audit Office.

A spokesman for HMRC said of the deals today: “The National Audit Office looked into the ‘bespoke governance’ settlements, finding they represented good value for the country and were properly carried out. However, since then we have significantly improved the transparency of the governance around our large business settlements.”

The latest twist comes as separate documents revealed tax officials used extensive and intrusive powers usually reserved for criminal investigations to attempt to prove a HMRC solicitor and whistleblower had leaked information about the ‘sweetheart’ deal with Goldman Sachs to the Guardian.

According to previously undisclosed documents seen by the newspaper, the belongings, e-mails, internet search records and telephone calls of Osita Mba – along with his wife Claudia’s mobile phone records – were scrutinised by HMRC investigators. Ultimately, no evidence of the suspected contact was found.

In 2011, Mba flagged up the Goldman Sachs deal by passing information to two parliamentary committees and the NAO under whistleblowing legislation.

An employment tribunal claim brought by Mba continues and is expected to be heard in the autumn.

HMRC declined to comment.

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