I can’t help but conclude that Dave Hartnett, the man who runs tax policy for
HMRC, is a hopeless romantic.
The view stems directly from his comments during the Hardman Lecture at the
ICAEW last week. Ever willing to place himself in the role of intruder in the
lion’s den, Hartnett announced that he wanted HMRC seconded staff in the big
corporates and that they should be allowed to see companies’ most complex
This is nothing new, but Hartnett’s aggression was.
“It’s just not enough to say you crave certainty in tax administration
without investing in the people charged to deliver it: Take HMRC people on
There are objections aplenty. The premise for Hartnett’s claim is that
without a look under the covers, HMRC will not be able to offer certainty to
corporate tax payers. I think the tax adviser community will take some
convincing where does it say certainty relies on an inside view? My guess is
that tax advisers see that as an issue of policy, not an issue of practical
experience of company systems. Where once corporates felt safe with some
practices, they have been led to believe they are fair game for an energised and
much more aggressive tax collector.
I don’t want to be the apologist for the tax profession, but the taxman must
make some effort up front. Perhaps certainty is the wrong word. What advisers
want is consistency. Knowing that decisions will stand for some time to come,
with decent notice before change.
Incidentally, when Daniel entered the lion’s den he was only spared being
eaten by God. So tax advisers might be up against it after all.
Gavin Hinks is editor of Accountancy Age
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