Is three a crowd at the revenue?

Gavin Hinks, editor of AccountancyAge

The headlines are likely to be about borrowing: how much and how the
government plans to deal with it. Will there be tax rises? As we report this
week, a sharp lift in the VAT rate is being discussed by some.

With three people in charge at HM Revenue & Customs now, there are some
obvious bits of detail they should be addressing. The performance of the tax
department is one of them. It has managed to shed 15,000 staff, it said this
week, without any forced redundancies. While we should be grateful no one has
lost their job, that 15,000 people were happy to leave does not say much for

Lesley Strathie, the chief executive, should make it her first priority to
restore some pride at HMRC by getting the department to offer a first class, or
at least a better, service.

As far as tax itself is concerned, Dave Hartnett has some intractable issues
to deal with. Two years ago he told this magazine he hoped to make tax avoidance
‘not worthwhile’ by 2008. Perhaps he could slip a short note on the progress of
that policy in to the chancellor’s speech.

The foreign profits consultation drags on, causing only uncertainty among
companies. A decision should be announced. There are also radical moves being
suggested in regard to tax havens, led by the French and Germans.

The UK government is in a bind on tax havens; it is responsible for the
well-being of its dependent states, many of which make a living from being low
tax regimes. Does the UK government agree with a crackdown on corporate secrecy,
both here and abroad? A sense of direction is needed.

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