Isn’t it interesting – some would say fortunate for the Conservatives and their tax avoiding friends – that HM Revenue and Customs don’t seem to have enough staff and resources to investigate the Paradise Papers revelations properly?
The Tories have been cutting Civil Service number wholesale since they came into office in 2010. As the graph (above) shows, the number of staff in HMRC was cut by one-third between 2005 and 2014. It should be admitted that New Labour was in office for the first five years of this period.
Current staffing at HMRC is 60,579, according to UK government figures.
Those staff members are implementing Brexit changes and 15 major programmes already – and must now attempt to add investigating the facts in the Paradise Papers to their duties.
Is it too much?
If the workload is too great, HMRC bosses must face the possibilities that mistakes will be made – unless they decide to concentrate on some projects and exclude others, or take on more staff.
This Writer would suggest that a Tory government is unlikely to take on any more staff!
And no minister would want to admit having pushed ahead with projects, knowing that they were likely to be flawed.
That leaves us with the possibility that some projects will be dropped.
Will the Tories want to drop programmes it has initiated? This seems unlikely.
But shelving an investigation that involves 13.4 million files? Into tax avoidance?
Let us be honest: Tories resent the national assumption that the rich must pay taxes along with everyone else – and must put a higher proportion of their earnings towards those taxes. They assume the poor are more likely to use publicly-funded services, and should therefore pay for them; if those services prove too expensive, then the poor should do without them.
It is an assumption that avoids inconvenient truths, like the fact that we all use some publicly-provided services – rich and poor alike. Our network of public roads is an example that springs to mind.
So it seems likely – to me – that the Tories will find it very easy to delay – perhaps forever – any investigation into tax avoidance, especially one that could implicate members of the Conservative Party, donors to the Conservative Party, or others whose exposure would prove an embarrassment to the Conservative government.
Time will tell if I am proved correct.
HM Revenue and Customs is struggling to cope with a growing workload, including investigating revelations contained within the Paradise Papers, according to parliament’s spending watchdog.
The public accounts committee has warned that it is “far from confident” that the tax authority has sufficient resources to scrutinise claims published in the Guardian last year arising from a leak of 13.4m files.
In a report released on Thursday, MPs concluded that the Paradise Papers leak had highlighted the “potentially dubious practices of many high-profile individuals and corporations” that use offshore tax havens.
The committee said the tax authority was having to make tough decisions about the allocation of its own resources, while implementing Brexit changes and 15 major programmes across government.
The tax authority has until April to outline how it plans to cope with the growing pressures on HMRC.
Meg Hillier, the chair of the committee, said that HMRC’s “high-wire act” is facing “potentially catastrophic consequences” for taking on too many tasks at the same time.”
She added: “HMRC accepts something has to give and it now faces difficult decisions on how best to use its limited resources – decisions that must give full consideration to the needs of all taxpayers.”
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