The head of HM Revenue & Customs Dave Hartnett facilitated a bit of back
tracking by the chancellor, by writing a letter to the City saying it was all a
misunderstanding caused by a dodgy bit of drafting from his own department.
Alistair Darling is, perhaps, not entirely off the hook over non-doms, but
the Hartnett intervention certainly helped.
So did Hartnett volunteer to take the flak, or was he ordered? It’s an
interesting question to ponder. Politicians often favour a quick escape by
neatly pushing a civil servant in the way of trouble. And civil servants don’t
always mind, or even see it as expedient. To the extent, I mean, that it doesn’t
end a career or may
even help one.
Ponder this. Hartnett remains only ‘acting’ head of HMRC, and is probably
keen to stop ‘acting’ and feel a little more secure in the post. Deflecting a
little criticism from the chancellor, his employer, probably wouldn’t do his
prospects any harm. You give a little to take a little.
The other relationship Darling must worry about is his one with Lord Digby
Jones, former head of the CBI and now a minister in the newly overhauled
department for business. Lord Jones has been keen to publicly undermine the
non-dom policy not a great example of collective responsibility.
Which begs the question, what will he do with future corporate tax policy
emanating from the chancellor’s office if he doesn’t like it? He certainly
doesn’t feel the need for blind loyalty. Darling must be asking himself that
very question. He must also be thanking his lucky stars that he does, at least,
seem to have a friend among the taxmen.
Gavin Hinks is editor of Accountancy Age
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