Friday, June 18, 2010

Entertaining Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary for Tax

Oh how I laughed when I saw the reports this week that Dave was Whitehall's most wined and dined civil servant.

I've met Dave many times over the years at official functions and events - and occasionally at formal meetings at HMRC (when all I've been offered is a cup of tea and plain buscuit).

The reports that Dave is a Whitehall's dinner winner all try to insinuate that there was something underhand and inappropriate going on. Such reports are SO far from the truth that they are laughable.

On the occasions I have seen Dave at events for the accountancy and tax profession, where he is being 'wined and dined' he is invariably required to give a speech of some sort. He always starts his talks with his standard and politically correct phrase: "Sisters and brothers in tax..." He evidently believes we should all be working to the same end result of everyone paying the 'right' amount of tax. Many professinals bristle when they hear his views. I suspect I am in a minority in respecting and greeing with much of what I've heard him say over the years.

Dave is no one's poodle. Even when an invited guest he consistently and publicly attacks those 'professionals' who are engaged in 'abusive' tax avoidance activities. He speaks about the need for the accountancy and tax professions to work WITH HMRC to ensure higher levels of tax compliance and reductions in tax evasion. And he defends HMRC activities and his political masters even when I suspect he knows that the professions' criticisms have some justification.

I admit I've not been present when Dave has been "entertained by some of Britain's biggest banks, law firms and accountancy firms". Only at functions and events hosted by professional bodies. But, I would be astonished if his approach softens in such situations. The implication that his attitude or approach is in some way tainted by virtue of the lunch or dinner eaten during official meetings is risible.

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