With HMRC under fire for increasingly militant tax avoidance crackdowns, The Guardian has uncovered an internal memo that raises further concerns about the taxman’s ability to claw back owed tax without infringing taxpayers’ rights.
The memo, from Director of Specialist Tax Mary Aiston (head of the department tasked with tackling avoidance) reveals that 300 jobs in the Specialist Personal Tax department will be cut by 2015, in line with George Osborne’s continuing austerity measures within the public sector. With revenue targets for the department increasing to £950 million in 2014/15, those staff that remain will be pushed ever harder to recover avoided tax from the UK’s wealthiest individuals.
Around half the jobs will be eliminated through organic staff turnover. Posting on HMRC’s staff-only intranet, Aiston said:
“Looking at our plans, over 2014/15 specialist personal tax will be about 250-300 people smaller. We will do this by considering each role when people leave specialist PT, whether we need to fill their role and, if so, whether we can move someone into it who is already in specialist PT.
“We won’t be able to make all the changes we need to in this way (what’s often referred to as using ‘natural wastage’) but our plan at this stage is that roughly half of the reductions will be through natural wastage.”
Mark Serwotka, the general secretary PCS, the union representing HMRC staff, said:
“The rhetoric from the government on the need to tackle tax avoidance, which deprives our economy of tens of billions of pounds every year, is completely undermined by its actions. Instead of investing in the department that collects the taxes that fund the public services we all rely on, it is making it harder to chase down these wealthy individuals and organisations.”
Photo by HMRC