A controversial "sweetheart" tax deal between HM Revenue & Customs and Goldman Sachs, worth up to £20m, was agreed in part to avoid embarrassment to George Osborne, according to the government's former head of tax.
Dave Hartnett wrote that he decided to settle the long-running dispute after Goldman Sachs threatened to pull out of a prized new tax framework a week after the chancellor had announced that the bank had signed up to it.
The disclosures have emerged in an email and a witness statement placed before the high court on Wednesday where the campaign group UK Uncut Legal Action is asking for a judgment to declare that the 2010 settlement between Goldman and the tax authority was unlawful.Indeed. But it doesn't matter, no really, none of this is important because:
- The deal is done and dusted, and isn't going to be undone. Goldman Sachs will not be parting with any money as a result of the judicial review.
- Hartnett left HMRC last year and can't be fired, disciplined, or whatever if the deal is found to be unlawful.
- The NAO report contained a list of recommendations to help enhance the governance of large value tax settlements. Presumably, someone from the NAO is following up to see if they are being implemented.
The best result for UK Uncut then is that the deal is declared unlawful, HMRC say lessons have been learned and point to the NAO report recommendations, and the lawyers get paid. So apart from publicity for UK Uncut, what is the point of this court case?