A year ago, the public accounts committee criticised HMRC for its "woefully inadequate number of prosecutions for offshore tax evasion", and the subsequent excuse, that exorbitant court costs prohibited more cases (HMRC`s unanswered helplines impede tax collection, say MPs,04/11/15). The committee, however, allowed itself to be fobbed off with dubious and unfounded claims that the amount of uncollected tax in Britain was "no worse than in many other countries", stating the tax gap to be £34bn., a figure which contradicts this week`s statement by Treasury minister, Jane Ellison, that the tax gap is "down to its lowest ever level" (HMRC "underplaying corporate avoidance",21/10/16).
Hopefully, the committee, at next Wednesday`s meeting, will give the "top HMRC officials" the grilling they deserve, for misleading the public for so many years; it`s bad enough when the government treats us as mugs! Clearly, HMRC`s underestimation of the tax gap has to be challenged, as the true figure has to be more than double the £36bn claimed. If HMRC`s failure to reduce the tax gap is due to staff shortages, after the "efficiency cuts" under Cameron, why isn`t May`s government recruiting? Won`t the new HMRC "specialist unit", tackling "misuse by companies of agency workers to avoid tax", simply entail transferring staff from one HMRC department to another (HMRC targets exploitation of self-employed,21/10/16)?
Ending tax avoidance and evasion will require not only legislation with less loopholes, but a change of culture, so that people are disgraced, knighthoods and honours returned, and prison sentences imposed when individuals and companies fail to pay the correct amount of tax. Somehow, I don`t think that is what May has in mind!
PS 65% yesterday`s meeting taken up with telephone delays. Tax gap not likely to be reduced at this rate!