Thursday, 16 May 2013

"Not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue."

This is the soundbite being quoted by the press and Uncutters out there in relation to the judgement on HMRC's "sweetheart" tax settlement with Goldman Sachs. Unfortunately for UK Uncut, context is everything, because they lost. The full judgement is here.

Reading through it, there really are no surprises; anybody familiar with the case will know that the settlement was reviewed by Sir Andrew Park, a retired tax judge, as part of a report from the National Audit Office on settling large tax disputes. The result of this was that yep, HMRC fucked up by not following procedure, but ultimately the settlement was considered reasonable, and compatible with its Litigation and Settlement Strategy. All other grounds for challenging the settlement including claims that it was made to save Hartnett, HMRC, and George Osborne from embarrassment were thrown out.

All of this hasn't prevented accusations of conspiracy, corruption, and claims of the "capture" of the courts by big business. UK Uncut are even spinning it as a win! However, if they really had won then the end result would have been the same; murmurings of "lessons have been learned" at HMRC and no additional revenue to the Treasury.

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