Blog Archives

Government ‘sweetheart’ tax deals and yet another revolving door reward for failure

Yeah, we’re all in this together? 

So said the reader who recommended the Guardian article by Rajeev Syal which reveals the scale of the government’s “sweetheart” tax deals – individual secret agreements drawn up between tax officials and corporations to settle disputes.

Another whistleblower revelation

A leaked document sent by Dave Hartnett, the former head of tax at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), to David Gauke, the exchequer secretary at the Treasury, discloses a figure of £4.5bn for four settlements.

Conflict of interest: the government’s civil servant too close to the corporate world

dave hartnettTwo years ago the Telegraph and others reported that Dave Hartnett, during his service as ‘permanent secretary for tax’ at HM Revenue & Customs, was entertained 107 times by some of the UK’s biggest banks.

These included law firms and accountancy firms and other corporates, amongst them, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PriceWaterhouse Coopers and Deloitte.

Revolving door

In January he was hired by HSBC to help to enforce the highest standards in dealing with international money transfers.

The leaked document describes deals in excess of £1bn as “not uncommon”.

The disclosures about the multibillion-pound scale of the government’s deals come from a seven-page memo sent by Hartnett in December 2011 as he asked for public support from Gauke in the face of growing criticism in the media and parliament.

Margaret Hodge, the chair of the Commons public accounts committee, said: “If we got £4.5bn in, how much did we not get? That is what taxpayers will want to know, and I’ll be raising this with HMRC through the committee.

Whistleblower protected? No: treated like serious criminal

Separate documents disclosed in the Guardian show that tax officials used intrusive investigative powers designed to help them catch serious criminals to try to prove that the whistleblower who uncovered one of the first sweetheart deals, involving Goldman Sachs, had spoken to the Guardian.

Read more about HMRC’s draconian action against its whistleblower and deals with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs here:


MP Margaret Hodge – admirable politician

Margaret Hodge: an admirable Chair of the Public Accounts Committee

By chance, tuning into the BBC Parliament channel’s televised proceedings of 18th March scrutinising the ‘Use of NHS Consultants and Severance Clauses’ went some way to restoring confidence in the calibre of MPs, so sadly shaken by the foolish & loutish behaviour of many in Prime Minister’s Questions and the less than statesmanlike performances of the prime minister and leader of the opposition.

margaret hodgeAbove all, this restoration was compelled by Margaret Hodge as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, incisively holding Sir David Nicholson and others to account, quoting the relevant sections of the Treasury’s “Managing Public Money” which lay down “some specific rules and conventions about how certain things are handled”and never letting the prevaricators ‘off the hook’.

The exchanges recorded were from Q149- Q184 in an uncorrected transcript in Hansard: MANAGEMENT OF HOSPITAL CONSULTANTS AND TERMINATION AGREEMENTS IN THE NHS.

The rare accolade of ‘admirable politician’ has been given on this website to three people:
  • Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George for his years leading the campaign to create a watchdog to protect smaller farmers and growers from the unethical practices of supermarket buyers,
  • Old Labour stalwart Tony Benn – quoting from his 2011 Salter Lecture
  • and the similarly principled and eloquent former Respect Party leader, Salma Yacoob.
Three other admirable MPs from the Conservative, Green and Labour parties, respectively, will be featured in due course.