Yesterday, ARC held a Parliamentary event organised by the ARC Campaign team and our lobbyists Connect, titled ‘Tackling the tax gap – reducing the deficit’.
I’ll start by saying that our President – Graham – was magnificent. Having got the better of early morning nerves (and after being introduced by the chair of the event – Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green Party), Graham used the 3 or so minutes allotted to each of the panellists to set out, very powerfully, the nub of ARC’s campaign – that it’s the economics of the playground not to invest in an income generating department. Graham said it’s difficult to understand why the Government is not acting on ARC’s arguments – the analogy he used being ‘It’s as if we’ve given them the winning numbers for next week’s lottery but they don’t want to invest a £1 to buy a ticket.’
A packed room (every seat taken and people standing at the back) heard interesting views from each panellist. And each speaker picked up on dwindling HMRC resources, ranging from what it means in terms of ensuring everyone pay their fair share to the negative affect staff cuts have had on customer service. The audience – a real mixture of MPs, Lords, people from the accountancy profession to other interested parties like Richard Murphy (from Tax Research and Tax Justice Network) and Richard Brooks (Private Eye) and ARC members – then quizzed the panel with a range of thoughtful questions, for example, around tax simplification, HMRC’s ability to deliver and why (given ARC’s compelling arguments and the consensus in the room that the tax gap needs to be closed) the government has not been bold and acted upon ARC’s campaign by significantly investing in HMRC resource. Here’s a cross section of some of the responses from panellists to those (and other questions):
Lord Oakeshott (Lib Dem): ‘Tax evasion is abhorrent…I agree that the government should invest in HMRC resources’
David Hanson (shadow Exchequer Secretary): ‘The opposition supports ARC’s campaign…I challenge the Government to think closely about the need for further cuts in HMRC’
Chas Roy Chowdhury (Head of Taxation, ACCA): ‘Tax evaders should be targeted by HMRC…spend to save makes absolute sense’.
Mark Garnier (Conservative): ‘People have a social conscience and want to pay the right amount of tax’
And from Graham Black: ‘Closing the tax gap is imperative for this Government and the UK: it is the responsible and fair thing to do….The Government needs to listen to and act on ARC’s campaign by investing in HMRC… Not to do so is the economics of the playground’.
There was a real feeling of support for ARC’s campaign and agreement that our arguments – our simple, powerful and compelling arguments – must be taken account of. I’ll end by saying, unashamedly, that this was yet another success for ARC’s campaign. Well done to all involved, but particular congratulations and thank you to Graham.
I’m sure the other ARC members who were there will echo me in saying, Graham, you did a great job – in serving the union and in representing, promoting and defending the interests of ARC members – which is what this campaign has been all about.