Shelagh Fogarty is Leading Britain's Conversation.
19 February 2017, 01:10
In the past ten years, Her Majesty's tax inspectors overpaid themselves £22million.
I know what you are thinking - they deserve it! They work hard, they should share the spoils.
Oh, you weren't thinking that?
In the 2015/16 financial year alone, the overpayments averaged about £5,600 extra for each staff member.
They did not all get that amount but if the £1.4m overpayment was shared out equally, that is what it would come to.
If you have recently been fined by HMRC for late filing of your tax return, or some other simple mistake, you will be surprised to learn that they are not so strict with themselves when it comes to their own tax affairs.
Oh, you aren't surprised?
The overpayments were revealed by a Freedom of Information request.
It is the sort of thing that you would think they would do everything in their power to keep from us.
They could have used any number of available excuses not to release that news. They could have said that it would cost too much to find out that information. They could have said that they did the research but the dog ate it, or they left it on a bus, but the truth came out anyway.
Perhaps they were too busy celebrating their windfalls to notice the press looming on the horizon, sharpening their pens.
Of course, this does not look good for a revenue service that has been treating ordinary, non HMRC staff quite harshly for minor infractions of the rules.
The tax man doled out a new record of 143,000 penalties last year to people who had not taken what they call ‘reasonable care’ to fill in their tax returns correctly.
This includes a large number of people that have made innocent mistakes, which are understandable, as a tax return is about as complicated as the operating manual for the International Space Station.
While they have been handing out punishments, 245 HMRC employees were overpaid more than £1,000 last year.
Many of them do not even work for the Revenue any more, having left, presumably to enjoy a prosperous retirement on all the cash that still pours in to their bank accounts from an organisation that is supposed to be good with money.
It is not like they have been distracted by concentrating on the big fish tax avoiders.
Just last month, the Public Accounts Committee said HMRC collected £1 billion less from multi-millionaires, six years after setting up a task force to collect more money from multi-millionaires.
Aren't you shocked? The poor get clobbered for sending in their tax returns a few days late and the super rich get a pass on £1bn worth of taxes that they actually owe.
Oh, you're not shocked?