Tag Archives: hm

Employees are to be taxed for every Covid-19 test they take, HMRC confirms

HMRC: if you have a Covid-19 test, the government will tax you for it.

Just when you think the Tories are as low as they can go, they find a new way to disappoint.

HMRC has confirmed that Coronavirus tests are to be treated as a “benefit in kind” and that every employee who takes one as part of their job will be taxed for it:

Some of us should be tested regularly because our jobs involve regular contact with large numbers of people.

Consider the doctors and nurses who have saved so many lives already, for example.

Do you think they should be penalised, simply because the nature of their work – saving lives – requires them to take these tests?

It won’t be a step too far because British people are notorious wimps when such impositions are made on their working pay and conditions.

But if you are affected, you should be downing tools and demanding that this decision be refused, and if you aren’t, you should be downing tools in solidarity. This is an attack on all of us.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Tax offices refuse to charge rich people with evasion – to avoid reputational damage

How sympathetic of our tax guardians! And if I get caught evading my tax responsibilities, will I receive the same treatment?

No?

Then this is unfair and must end.

It also seems contradictory. Look:

A senior HMRC official admitted that the UK tax authority panders to the rich and powerful when chasing them for tax evasion so they can avoid “reputational damage“.

If you ever had any doubt that in Britain there really is “one rule for them, and another for the rest of us“, this utterly astonishing admission by the UK’s tax authority proves it.

Richard Las, a deputy director of HMRC, said that criminal prosecutions are not the “default option” for cases of tax evasion, money laundering or fraud. He went on to say:

“When deciding whether to deploy our resources, we try to understand what motivates different types of offenders. For example some tax offenders are very wealthy, prominent members of the community. We know that these types of people do not want the reputational damage of custodial sentences, and we can use that to our advantage.”

I could understand this strategy if it resulted in a larger repayment to the Treasury, but the evidence indicates that it does not.

Can HMRC point to anyone who has paid more back to the state as a result of the organisation using the threat of reputational damage “to our advantage”? No – because that would make the whole exercise pointless.

And consider this: Is HMRC admitting it blackmails the rich?

The more one thinks about the HMRC statement, the less credible it seems.

This government department is apparently admitting blackmailing rich people with the threat of reputational damage if they don’t pay up – but we have no evidence to show that they have paid everything they owe.

We need a lot more information.

Source: HMRC refuses to charge rich and powerful people with tax evasion to ‘avoid damaging their reputation’ | Evolve Politics

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Tax break for referendum campaign donors is nothing less than theft

Brexit-backing Arron Banks, seen here with Nigel Farage, donated £8.1m to his Leave.EU campaign group [Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images].

“This is theft. They buy control of our country, then get tax relief on their investment.”

Damn straight.

This Writer can’t help but agree with ‘Brexit Job Losses’ (@MrHickmott).

All you have to do is look at the list of beneficiaries from this proposed law change. None of them are short of a few pennies.

And how many are looking forward to cashing in on Brexit?

Brexit-backing MPs as well as counterparts from the remain campaign have backed a controversial measure to extend a tax break to referendum campaign donors, after several billionaire donors received large demands from HMRC.

The shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Peter Dowd, criticised the proposed amendment to the finance bill from prominent leave campaigners Charlie Elphicke, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Iain Duncan Smith, but which has also been backed by Labour MPs and remain supporters Alison McGovern and Caroline Flint.

It would extend a tax exemption for political parties to referendum campaigns – backdating it to cover the EU referendum.

Last month it was revealed that several prominent leave campaigners who donated large sums to the Brexit campaigns during the 2016 referendum received substantial tax demands from HMRC.

HMRC said it had applied the law equally across all donors, but senior UK cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove expressed concerns about the demands.

Source: MPs on both sides back tax break for referendum campaign donors | Politics | The Guardian


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Is HMRC ‘struggling to deal with fallout of Paradise Papers leak’ because staff numbers have been cut too far?

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.”

Source: HMRC ‘struggling to deal with fallout of Paradise Papers leak’ | Politics | The Guardian


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Welfare is perfectly sustainable, Gideon – it’s the TAX GAP that’s the problem!

George Osborne's most famous performance in Prime Minister's Questions, from November 2014. What was he on?

George Osborne’s most famous performance in Prime Minister’s Questions, from November 2014. What was he on?

George Gideon Osborne. Was there ever a more foolish fellow running the Exchequer?

Probably not. Did you hear him in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, trying to tell us that the UK’s social security bill makes up seven per cent of welfare in the whole world, and that this is “unsustainable”? What a berk.

The first question this raises is, can he prove his “seven per cent” claim?

No – he’s wrong. The claim is based on a comment by German Chancellor Angela Merkel about EU social security being 50 per cent of that in the world, making the UK’s share 7.4 per cent of the total. Unfortunately for Thick George, she was using World Bank data that only included 96 countries and excluded large economies like Canada and Mexico, where social security makes up 18 per cent and 17 per cent of each country’s GDP.

The Guardian reckons that, if all countries were taken into account, this would not seriously affect the UK’s share of the total, suggesting that it accounts for the rounding-down to seven per cent from 7.4 – but there’s no proof either way. The article also quibbles about definitions of social security spending.

What this really shows is not that the UK spends too much, but that other countries spend too little.Mr

Nearly half of the world’s population – three billion people – must try to scrape a living on around $2.50US per day – or less. Of those, 1.3 billion are in extreme poverty, having to survive on less than $1.25 per day. That’s around 80p.

The countries in which they live – mostly developing countries – don’t have social security at all; that is the scandal.

If they did, then Gideon could not quote his “seven per cent” figure – it would be much lower.

What’s stopping these developing countries? Well, the organisation most directly responsible is probably the International Monetary Fund, whose ‘Structural Adjustment Programmes’ have put these countries into a continual cycle of debt; they can’t help their populations without breaching the IMF’s rules. This is the same IMF that wants the UK to run a debt economy, by the way.

So much for Osborne’s claim that social security spending in the UK is too large a proportion of the world’s spend. What about his “unsustainable” comment?

He said: “We can either carry on on a completely unsustainable path or we can continue to reform welfare so that work pays and we give a fair deal to those on welfare and indeed a fair deal to the people, the taxpayers of this country, who pay for it.”

Ignoring for the moment the fact that those on social security are in fact taxpayers themselves, let us consider the fact that the UK government does not collect as much tax as it could, and in fact offers extremely lucrative tax avoidance opportunities to the obscenely wealthy.

Did you know that you could fit the owners of half the world’s wealth into a double-decker bus, with space to spare? Less than 80 people own more money than the other seven billion, and you can bet that the majority of those with UK citizenship aren’t paying their full whack of tax!

A report by Tax Research UK has indicated that the amount of tax being avoided is around £122 billion every year. Compare that with the UK’s current budget deficit of £107 billion per year and you will see that – in a perfect world in which it was all collected – we would be running surpluses of at least £15 billion per year.

The Conservative government, of which Osborne is Chancellor, tells us the most effective way of tackling the deficit is by cutting the public services on which many people rely. They say it is the only option without increasing taxes.

But, with more than £100 billion in taxes going uncollected, why is the government slashing funding to the HMRC investigative branch?

Over on Tax Research UK itself, Richard Murphy has taken David Gauke, the financial secretary to the Treasury, to task over his fudged claims about the tax gap.

Gauke said: “The tax gap as a percentage has been lower in every year under us than it was in any year under the Labour Government”.

Mr Murphy replied: “Percentages are the evasive politician’s favourite tool, so I think that claim can be dismissed. What remains baffling is David Gauke’s apparent inability to see just how wrong his data might be. The government claims that the tax gap is £34 billion. And then it claims that HMRC recover £26 billion a year. Or to put it another way, £60 billion of tax abuse is attempted and 40 per cent is recovered.

“Is there anyone who thinks that remotely likely?”

He goes on to completely trash Gauke’s – and the Conservative Government’s – claims, and it is strongly recommended that you read the article for the details.

Mr Murphy says HMRC’s tax gap estimates should be subject to independent economic audit to check their credibility. He says HMRC’s claim of tax recovered should be subject to independent scrutiny to ensure that it is credible. He says a review of HMRC is overdue, with a panel of independent experts including from unions and civil society being included in the task. And he says it is time we had an Office for Tax Responsibility, reporting to the Public Accounts Committee, to ensure that this most critical department of government is held to account.

He states: “A recovery of £26 billion out of more than £100 billion I could possibly accept – except to say it could be so much better. But that rate of recovery out of anything less is absurd right now – as is HMRC’s tax gap estimate.”

So, under analysis, Gideon the Towel Folder’s claims are no more than silly attempts to confuse us.

If he bothered to collect all the taxes owed him, he would be running a budget surplus tomorrow.

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Tax avoidance – the latest from Twitter

141102taxavoidancememe

This infographic appeared on Twitter yesterday. At a time when it has been revealed that the richest people in the UK doubled their income between 2009 and 2014, proving that the Coalition government lied about sharing the burden equally, it seems appropriate to share it.

Supporting information on the £120 billion figure can be found here and here.

The HMRC figure is harder to pin down but a claim that it amounted to £32 billion can be found here.

The claim that £16 billion in benefits goes unclaimed every year seems to date from 2010 and may be lower than the actual amount.

Benefit fraud and error is enumerated in this DWP report which shows that the infographic is mistaken about overpayments due to error – these stand at £2.4 billion, not £1.4 billion.

Information showing that the 1,000 richest people in the UK doubled their incomes between 2009 and 2014 can be found here.

David Cameron has vowed (yet again) to crack down on tax avoidance. A report is here

But you can safely leave any words he has to say on the subject here:

dustbin

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The ugly face of New Labour rears up again: Chris Leslie and Nita Clarke

 

140601uglynewlabour

It seems the neoliberal Blairites of New Labour are coming out of the woodwork in an effort to ensure that nobody in their right mind supports the modern Labour Party next year.

According to the Huffington Post, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie reckons that a future Labour government will not undo the Coalition’s hugely unpopular cuts but will continue to impose the austerity that has kept our economy in crisis for the last four years.

In that case, why bother voting for Labour? We’ve already got one lot of Conservatives in power; there’s no need for any more.

Just to recap what we all know already, austerity is no way out of a recession. Economies grow when an increased money supply travels through the system, making profits for businesses and creating the fiscal multiplier effect. This means more tax comes to the government and it is able to pay down its debts. Austerity cuts off that money supply, making it much more difficult for money to circulated, profit to be made and tax to be taken. Evidence shows that the only people who profit from it are those who were rich already.

Indeed, the current economic miracle (if you believe George Osborne) was engineered by government investment – rather than austerity – in a housing price bubble. It’s almost a return to Keynesian economics, but done in a cack-handed, amateurish way that will cause more problems in the long run.

Austerity is, therefore, a Conservative policy and one that should be abandoned if Labour ever comes to power. The fact that this Leslie person is promoting it shows his true-Blue colours. Perhaps someone should start a petition to have him ejected from the party.

Retaining austerity was described by the HuffPost as part of “Labour’s ‘radical’ policy plans”, but this is ridiculous. How can retaining a policy that is already causing uncounted harm be, in any way, radical? It’s just more of the same neoliberal Conservatism.

“George Osborne has had his five years to eradicate the deficit. I am determined that we finish that task on which he has failed,” said Leslie in the article. How does he propose to achieve that aim, if his methods are the same? The man just isn’t making sense.

Meanwhile, a former Blair aide named Nita Clarke has defended another pillar of neoliberalism – privatisation – by making the absurd claim that Labour should not criticise private firms when they fail to deliver public services.

Speaking at a conference by the right-wing thinktank Progress, she said: “We have to be really careful that we’re not always seen as attacking the private sector and celebrating their failures. How do you think that makes the staff who work there feel?”

How does Nita Clarke think British citizens feel about being let down on a regular basis by these profit-guzzling clowns, ever since Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives first started letting them into places where they did not belong?

How does Nita Clarke think British citizens felt when neoliberal New Labour refused to push back the tide of privatisation?

How does Nita Clarke think British citizens should feel about the fact that privatisation is now threatening the welfare state, the National Health Service and even state pensions?

Only today, Vox Political reblogged an article warning that HM Revenue and Customs may be undergoing preparations for privatisation.

Like austerity, privatisation is a fundamental pillar of the current neoliberal agenda. It has no place in the Labour Party, if the Labour Party is serious about opposing the Conservatives at the next election.

There should be no place in Labour for Chris Leslie, Nita Clarke, or anybody who supports their views, either.

It’s a view that might be unpopular with the Blue suits that make up the current Labour leadership.

But it’s the only way Labour will ever come up with a really ‘radical’ – and workable – plan.

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Now the Tories want to sell your tax details to private firms

[Image: The Guardian.]

[Image: The Guardian.]

Not happy with its attempt to sell your health details to private companies, the moneygrubbing Conservative-led Coalition wants to sell off your personal tax data to companies, researchers and public bodies.

The government is considering how much to charge for the information, and claims that all data accessed by third parties will be “confidential”.

But the public has already been stung once by the Coalition’s incompetent attempts to go commercial. The proposed initiative to share NHS medical records with the private sector had to be suspended after a public outcry over “pseudonymised” data – a process by which medical records were said to be anonymous but it was in fact possible to trace exactly whose they were.

The plans for HM Revenue and Customs to share its data are, apparently, being overseen by Treasury minister David Gauke, whose relaxed attitude towards private firms led him to sign off on the infamous “sweetheart deals” that allowed multinational companies to keep billions of pounds of tax that they owed to the Treasury but didn’t want to pay.

Worse still, it turns out the government has already allowed private firms access to our data.

The government has strict rules about what can be released outside HMRC, with a near total ban on data sharing unless it is beneficial for the organisation’s internal work. But according to The Guardian, despite the restrictions, HMRC has quietly launched a pilot programme that has released data about VAT registration for research purposes to three private credit ratings agencies: Experian, Equifax and Dun & Bradstreet.

To comply with the law, the private ratings agencies, which determine credit scores for millions of people and businesses, have been contracted to act on behalf of HMRC and are “therefore treated as part of the department” – giving them access to tax data about businesses that would otherwise be confidential.

The government’s plans to change the law to allow the sale of anonymised individual tax data and release of the VAT register were buried in documents as part of the autumn statement and recent budget.

An HMRC spokesman told the BBC: “HMRC would only share data where this would generate clear public benefits, and where there are robust safeguards in place.

“Last year’s consultation made it very clear that there would be a rigorous accreditation process for anyone wanting access to the data and that any access would take place in a secure environment.

“Those accessing data would be subject to the same confidentiality provisions as HMRC staff, including a criminal sanction for unlawful disclosure of taxpayer information.”

So there. Do you feel better now?

Emma Carr, deputy director of civil rights campaign group, Big Brother Watch, doesn’t. She said: “The ongoing claims about anonymous data overlook the serious risks to privacy of individual level data being vulnerable to re-identification.

“Given the huge uproar about similar plans for medical records, you would have hoped HMRC would have learned that trying to sneak plans like this under the radar is not the way to build trust or develop good policy.”

Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, told The Guardian the information could be highly useful to credit rating agencies, advertisers, and retailers wanting to practise price discrimination.

“This is going to be a big battleground,” he said. “If they were to make HMRC information more available, there’s an awful lot of people who would like to get their hands on it. Anonymisation is something about which they lied to us over medical data … If the same thing is about to be done by HMRC, there should be a much greater public debate about this.”

It seems the Conservatives in the Coalition are determined to sell information that doesn’t belong to them, and intend to grind us down with a relentless bombardment of initiatives and plans until they succeed.

They seem to by relying on the possibility that we will get ‘complaint fatigue’ and give up any protests. This is how they have beaten disabled people into submission to the draconian system for withdrawing state benefits from them; the system for appealing is drawn-out and convoluted, and many people with illnesses are too tired or weak to go through the process.

Also, this is another way of contracting-out government work to private firms, as evidenced by the VAT “research” that has been handed over to credit ratings agencies.

You can be sure of two things: Your data is not safe in their hands, and they won’t stop trying to sell it until they have been pushed out of government.

What are you going to do?

UPDATE: Campaigner Patrick Olszowski has responded to my challenge by launching a petition on the Change.org website. Please visit and sign!

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‘Unpaid taxes’ retrieval power – good or bad?

tax

Don’t you hate it when people avoid telling you things you ought to know?

George Osborne’s budget speech never mentioned the new power granted to HM Revenue and Customs, allowing it “to delve into Britons’ bank accounts for money that officials think is owed in unpaid taxes, in a move which critics have warned leave officials ‘a law unto themselves’,” according to the Huffington Post.

The trouble is, I’m not sure whether this is really a bad thing, or a useful tool in the battle against corporate and mega-rich tax avoiders/evaders.

Here’s what the HuffPost had to say:

“The Chancellor slipped details of the move out in the Budget’s Red Book, which stated that HMRC will be able to take money from people who owe officials over £1,000 in tax.

“Officials will only be able to use the power for Britons who have been asked ‘multiple times’ by debt collection officials to pay, and must leave at least £5,000 in the account.

“‘This brings the UK in line with many other tax authorities which already have the power to recover debts directly from an individual’s account, such as France and the US,’ the Budget reads.

“Once HMRC takes the money, the taxpayer will have 14 days to get in touch and set up a payment plan, otherwise officials will keep what they have taken.

“Osborne’s Budget also gave HMRC the power to take money from those they suspect of unfairly avoiding tax, with money only handed back – with interest – if the taxpayer wins a legal challenge in the courts.”

What do you think?

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Why is the DWP being so coy about the Work Programme?

workprogramme1

It’s amazing how the Department for Work and Pensions will bend over backwards to make it seem one of its madcap schemes has been successful.

It’s also amazing how little evidence DWP press officers will provide to support the claim.

Today we’re being told that more than a quarter of a million people have escaped unemployment via the Work Programme. The fiddle? This is an aggregate figure, including all placements – not people – since the scheme was launched in June 2011.

To register as someone who has achieved a lasting job through the programme, one must stay in work for six months or more (three months in “hardest to help” cases). Participants cannot be re-referred within a period of 104 weeks (the support period), but this means people referred within the first nine months, who subsequently became unemployed, may have returned to the Work Programme.

Never mind. How many people – who are currently in work as a result of time on this scheme – have, in fact, been employed for six months or more (three months for the “hardest to help”), as this is the only relevant period of time that can be applied?

No comment.

The press release has nothing to say about this.

It seems 44,000 people were “helped” into work during the last three months, but that’s neither here nor there. The DWP does not measure its success that way, and neither should we.

But the figure by which we should be judging this work is conspicuous by its absence.

In a similar vein, we learned yesterday (March 19) that unemployment fell by 63,000 in the last three months. But the number of employees also fell by 60,000, while registered self-employment has risen by 211,000 in the same period.

Remember the scam in which DWP employees at job centres dupe people into pretending they are self-employed when they really aren’t, in order to claim tax credits rather than unemployment benefits?

If you are one of these ‘self-employed’ people, were you told that HM Revenue and Customs might investigate your circumstances and demand repayment of all tax credits paid to you, if investigators decide that you’re not doing the work?

No?

I’d have a little think about what might happen, if I were you.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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