HMRC’s powering up

Dave Hartnett

Dave Hartnett, HMRC

Powering upAlthough the legislative process for new powers and safeguards
continues apace I find myself thinking more and more about their implementation.
It is vitally important that we get this right and learn lessons from the
introduction of self-assessment, where we ended up with more complex
arrangements than anyone had envisaged. We need to ensure that the legislative
aims survive intact through the implementation process.

That is why I am very pleased that ministers have decided to set up a forum
to oversee implementation. This will enable us to work with representative
bodies to gauge the impact on taxpayers, tax advisers and HMRC staff.

I will be chairing the forum which will report to the financial secretary.
Those reports will be published, so if we get things wrong there will rightly be
no hiding place for HMRC. But I hope, as well, that people will acknowledge when
we are getting it right. The balance on the forum will be weighted firmly in
favour of the private sector representatives.

I do not see the forum as being exclusively about the way that HMRC handles
implementation. When the powers review started, the minister said she wanted a
department that felt different to the predecessor organisations.

HMRC fully recognises that we must ensure that the new powers are used
proportionately, consistently and reasonably and that taxpayers have the
protections they need. The role of authorised officers, who will determine the
HMRC view of penalties, will be crucial and I have been taking a personal
interest in how our plans are developing.

But everyone needs to participate if, for instance, we are to deliver
compliance checks that really are completed quickly ­ months not years, days not
weeks. HMRC officers must not prolong checks to ‘get a result’, taxpayers need
to understand that they must take reasonable care and advisers who do not
provide information until the last moment must realise it may contradict their
clients’ desire for early closure. We must not waste this opportunity to build
trust and change for the better relationships within the tax system.

Dave Hartnett is permanent secretary for tax at

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