Taxidermy: getting under the skin of tax law
Rabbit in the headlights
The Chinese Year of the Rabbit began on 3rd
February and, being a lunar year, ends on 22nd
January 2012. According to Wikipedia
, those born in the Year of the Rabbit are lucky, amiable and self-assured but can also be detached, superficial and opportunistic.
This got me thinking so I checked a few people.
David (‘Call me Dave’) Hartnett, the Permanent Secretary for Tax and HMRC’s most senior civil servant, was born in the Year of the Rabbit. Last year he was either lucky or opportunistic enough to qualify for the distinction of Whitehall’s most wined and dined civil servant. As revealed by researchers from City University
, Dave was entertained 107 times in three years by some of the UK’s biggest banks, law firms and accountancy practices.
Amiable Dave was also the man who starred (if that’s the right word) in HMRC’s first-ever (and remarkably short-lived) YouTube video targeting offshore tax dodgers mentioned in my February 2010 blog
Dave’s self-assurance certainly shone through in the aftermath of the PAYE coding errors fiasco, which came to light during the autumn of 2010 and affected around six million people. Responding to this monumental bungle, which occurred following HMRC’s switch to a new national computer system (the ‘NPS’) in 2009, Dave initially saw no need to apologise, although he was, it seems, later pressured by the Treasury into doing so.
The NPS was intended to improve the operation of PAYE by collating all of a taxpayer’s records and making sure that allowances and tax rates were operated correctly across all employment or pension income sources. The NPS has the ability to perform automated end-of-year reconciliations, comparing the tax deducted under PAYE with other information which HMRC hold about that person’s income. All well and good, but when HMRC started to use this function over the weekend of 4th-5th September 2010 things clearly didn’t go according to plan.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Daniel (‘Call me Danny’) Alexander MP (Year of the Rat: meticulous, industrious and charming but can be intolerant, and scheming) was reported as saying that our Dave was right to apologise
‘but the important thing going forward is to ensure that firstly HMRC does as he says, works day and night to ensure that these problems are dealt with, that those four million or so people who are actually due a refund get that money, and those people who owe more tax
pay it, but in a way that suits their circumstances.’
Come on, Danny: working day and night? I know from personal experience that HMRC turn off their fax machine at 5pm on the dot on a Friday! Perhaps he should tone down the charm and concentrate on the industriousness.
The Chancellor, Gideon ('Call me George') Osborne M.P. was born in the Year of the Boar (note the spelling please). This makes him honest, thoughtful and hard-working as well as gullible, self-indulgent and fatalistic. By delightful contrast, Edward (‘Call me Ed’) Balls M.P., the Shadow Chancellor, was born in the Year of the Sheep, making him righteous and generous, but with the potential to be moody, indecisive and over-sensitive.
As for my own celestial credentials, I was born in the Year of the Dragon: decisive and direct, though apparently with a tendency to eccentricity.
Make of it what you will.