Tax Justice and Jobs: The business case for investing in staff at HM Revenue & Customs

Richard Murphy FCA
March 2010
Executive Summary
The UK has been in recession, and may well be in recession again soon. Through no fault of its own, the income of our government has collapsed whilst its obligations have increased. A gap between government income and expenditure of up to £175 billion a year has emerged as a result. This though is not a spending crisis: this is an income crisis. This report argues that the scale of that income crisis is being increased as a result of policies being pursued by HMRC. Those policies were created before the onset of recession. They have two aims. The first is to cut over time the number of staff engaged by HMRC by 25,000 – 17,000 have already left. The second policy is to close many of the local tax offices from which HMRC used to undertake its work in local communities. Over 200 offices have either closed already, are about to close, or are under threat of closure. It is fair to say that all offices are under scrutiny. When the programme is complete some people in the UK will live more than 50 miles from their nearest tax office, making it impossible for many of them to turn to this natural source of help and advice when seeking to fulfil their obligation to pay tax. In addition, HMRC are about to press ahead with the closure or severe reduction of its drop-in enquiry centre facility, which has previously provided a local and immediate tax advice service for both members of the public and tax professionals. As this report also notes, too many people do not pay the tax due by them in the UK. HMRC have estimated the ‘tax gap’ in the UK – the difference between the tax they think is owed and the tax they actually assess – to be about £40 billion a year. We argue that this dramatically underestimates the total tax gap, particularly with regard to tax evasion. To data previously published by the TUC which estimated total UK tax avoidance at £25 billion we now add an estimate of £70 billion for tax evaded within the UK. We can provide detailed and precise workings for this sum and also outline why the estimates of this sum produced by HMRC and the National Fraud Authority inevitably understate this figure.
Tax Research LLP
When the total outstanding debts now owing to HMRC are added to these two sums, which when last estimated was £28 billion, we suggest the total tax gap in the UK is now likely to exceed £120 billion. It is very obvious that the UK cannot afford this tax gap. It is equally obvious that if investment were made in additional resources for HMRC then this tax gap could and would be substantially reduced.

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