Whiter than white Hartnett wants *you* to stop diddling the country
Good old Dave Hartnett. The permanent secretary to HMRC has done nothing but good for the country, HMRC and the ordinary taxpayer during his time in office. Now, in his wise old grandfatherly way, he is offering some much-needed advice to the wealthy middle classes who are “diddling” the country out of much needed cash.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Dave H said that householders have a duty to ensure that other people do not evade paying their share of tax. “Paying a builder or cleaner in cash, allowing them to evade VAT or income tax, will result in even deeper government cuts to public services, he says. “People who contribute to the cash economy cannot then complain about austerity measures” he added, sternly.
Hartnett went on to say that the Revenue is now aggressively looking to cut down on tax loopholes that have enabled the rich to avoid paying their fair share.
“There are loopholes for wealthy people which have got to be closed down. We have not yet got the same head of steam up, addressing those loopholes as we have with business loopholes, but we will be there soon.” What the country’s most senior taxman seems to be missing, however, is that a clampdown on cash in hand won’t actually affect those wealthy homeowners who could probably afford to pay the VAT, but will instead get the ‘working class’ builder, plumber or electrician into fiscal trouble. Still, they are only mere tradesmen after all.
Mr Hartnett encourages anyone who suspects wrongdoing to telephone the Revenue’s whistle-blower hotline and tip off inspectors. “Cash has been a problem for a long time. The people who are worried about it should use our whistle-blowing line to tell us. We are getting better and better at finding people who receive cash,” he said. However, please remember that it’s not your neighbours you are shopping but the greasy oik who does work for them.
Of course there are two sides to every story. Tradesmen could be pressured by homeowners to do a cash job or lose the work, or perhaps they are just wilful VAT disregarders. However, if the homeowner does get a benefit, perhaps there ought to be some kind of penalty for them too- after all they know there is tax evasion going on, even if they are not the ones legally responsible?
Still, it’s a good job Dave H is such an upstanding member of the community, with a proper sense of what’s right and all that.
Only last month he was accused by MPs of being “unduly cosy” with big companies and of applying double standards to corporations and ordinary taxpayers after allegedly agreeing “sweetheart deals” with companies including Goldman Sachs and Vodafone that allegedly let them off large bills worth millions of pounds to HMRC.
Dave disagrees. He says HMRC is operating a “level playing field” and that big firms are treated in a similar way to individual taxpayers. He is also scathing of the “disservice” the enquiry has done to HMRC and the country, which has “unfairly damaged the image of HMRC.” Yes. It was clearly the enquiry that was the travesty, not the alleged writing off of tens of millions of pounds in taxpayer’s money by a man who was taken out for meals on 107 occasions over a three year period, often by big companies. He claims they were sandwiches or speaking engagements.
Still, Dave won’t have to bother himself with the nasty business of taxing lovely corporations anymore. He is retiring this summer with a £1.7million pension pot and “lots of offers” from private companies.
Still, in better news, planned HMRC strikes next week mean that you can now file your 2010/11 tax return up to 2 February without incurring a penalty. Officially the deadline is still 31 January, but in case people can’t get through for help, there will be a two day ‘grace’ period before penalties, that cannot be reduced as in previous year, are levied.
About 600,000 people are expected to file their returns on 31 January, and about 90,000 people are expected to phone the call centres with questions.