Controversial HMRC boss to quit

Dave Harnett, boss of HMRCHM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) boss Dave Hartnett is to quit. The news that the beleagured tax boss is leaving - though not until the summer - was stuck near the bottom of a press release detailing another staff appointment: ""I am also pleased," said civil service head Gus O'Donnell, "that Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary for Tax, has agreed to stay on at HMRC until the summer of 2012, when he will retire."

Tax leader lost!

The Inland Revenue even had the front to add: "Dave is widely-recognised as a tax leader at home and abroad, and has secured billions in tax for the UK that would otherwise have been lost through avoidance, evasion and fraud."

But Hartnett has caused considerable concern because he has caved in to corporates that owed HMRC billions in unpaid tax. The UK public accounts committee is now examining claims that a potential tax bill of up to £6bn from Vodafone - a deal brokered by Hartnett - may have also been outside the powers of HMRC.


If Vodafone (and other multinationals) have been given an easy ride, that means more pressure on the general tax base - from the likes of you and me. Allegations that Goldman Sachs may have also been handed a reduced tax bill have also come to the fore.

Last year the accident-prone HMRC revealed it had undercharged 1.4m Britons a total of £2bn in tax - and would be claiming it back (though no apology was given). Some HMRC employees are so disgusted at the lack of competence from their managers that they have even set up their own internal whistle-blowing network, called Dissent.

Chocs, flowers

For a look at how a few plucky demonstrators, angry at how some corporates pay worryingly low levels of tax, humiliated Dave Hartnett at a recent tax conference, click here. They didn't rant and rage. They bought him champagne, chocolates and flowers, surprising security in the process. Highly effective activism, applied with humour and wit.

Dave Hartnett will be replaced by Lin Homer, currently a permanent secretary at the Department of Transport. No doubt Hartnett will be retiring on a handsome pension.
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