Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Panorama on Tax - Make your mind up guys!

Last night's Panorama on tax was a mishmash that attempted to cover too many disparate topics. And in so doing missed it's key focus.

The title: "Tax: Are you one of the six million" was a clumsy and insulting allusion given that this is not a number referenced previously in the media or HMRC re the PAYE debacle that was topical a couple of months back. As I explained at the time: The PAYE tax system is now working as it should...

Panorama started by referencing the PAYE issues and suggested:
- Bad HMRC - they are incompetent and are sacking too many staff too quickly [NB: on instructions issued by Gordon Brown]
- Bad HMRC - all those PAYE errors and the vast number of people who have not paid exactly the right amount of tax through the PAYE system
- Bad HMRC - refusing to apologise initially for the broken PAYE system and all the notices of under and overpayments
- Bad HMRC for issuing demands for underpaid tax and worrying innocent taxpayers
- Bad HMRC - for not answering the phone quickly when 18,000 people a day were calling them
- Bad HMRC - as "there has to be a better way of paying tax"

But what's this?
- Good HMRC - for sorting out and resolving all the cases raised during the programme and agreeing no tax outstanding in each case; and for apologising to each of the taxpayers concerned.

So - what was the conclusion? Should all the underpaid tax be collected despite the upset and worry caused when HMRC pursue unexpected tax debts? Or should it be written off? Most of the programme implied the former but Jeremy Vine's final comments implied a contrary view. He noted HMRC were insisting that there will not be widespread write-offs. He then quoted an insider who told the BBC that:
"With so many underpayment cases in the system, it is inevitable that many of them simply will not be processed"
Given the main thrust of the programme you'd think that would be a good outcome. But no. Whatever HMRC do it's wrong in Panorama's view. Jeremy Vine's closing comments were clearly critical as regards HMRC writing off such underpayments:
"With the country facing massive budget cuts, that's millions of pounds of lost revenue that could be put to good use"
I'll post separate comments re other elements of the programme.

What did you think of it? (Available on BBC iplayer until 15 November)

1 comment:

  1. It was always going to get a kicking over the PAYE debacle. The 'good HMRC' reference was simply their effort at PR - w/o three balances, wow! Pity everyone else.

    The amount of tax outstanding and cases unresolved which were mentioned in the program were eye watering, and we've been saying for a long time (as has presumably anyone else who regularly deals with HMRC) that they need more people, not less. If it were a company, it would be calling in the administrators.