ARC President Gareth Hills explains in Guardian that HMRC staff don’t go for easy options
“Jackie Ashley is right to be astonished at the size of the UK tax gap (Firms must pay their fair share of tax – this is war, 3 December) but is wrong to say “HMRC comes down heavily on the easy targets” and to suggest that “if you are big enough you don’t pay your taxes”. Yes, the powerful and wealthy can afford to hire armies of advisers to avoid tax. That will never change, and MPs are also very wrong if they think Britain’s tax-gatherers cannot match those they are up against.
Senior tax officials at HMRC deliver massively for the government and British public. Through their efforts, HMRC managers, investigators, lawyers and other professionals last year brought in £16.7bn over and above that returned by businesses and individuals. Members of my union, the Association of Revenue and Customs (part of the First Division Association), continue to deliver despite HMRC resource cuts. From its formation in 2005 to the end of the current spending review in 2015, HMRC will have suffered 10 successive years of staff cuts, with staff levels falling from close to 100,000 to around 55,000.
That is why the union’s programme to reduce the deficit and address the tax gap (published by ARC on 30 November) concluded that the scale of the budget deficit and the tax gap are such that modest investment or “reinvestment” in HMRC is no longer enough. It’s why we will continue to press the government to now abandon caution and properly invest in recruiting (and crucially retaining) HMRC’s senior professionals. And why we’re urging the government to work with other countries to reform the international taxation system.
President, Association of Revenue and Customs”