It has emerged that HMRC’s ‘most wined and dined’ civil servant is alleged to have spent thousands of pounds of public money on lavish trips abroad, including a beach-side stay in Florida said to cost £350 per night.
HMRC’s tax boss is set to retire early this summer over his involvement in signing off Goldman Sachs’ tax bill of up to £20m and accusations of letting mobile giant, Vodafone, off with £7 billion in tax. Despite all criticisms, in January 2011 Hartnett flew to the US for an OECD Forum in Washington on Tax Administration and enjoyed a taxpayer funded stay at the Intercontinental Hotel where expenses of £1,005 were billed. In March 2011 Dave Hartnett returned to America to give a 40 minute presentation on the topic of UK tax policy during a two-day event in Florida, hosted by KMPG; who on their website say that they are the UK’s “leading provider of professional services including audit, tax and advisory”.
Whilst at the KMPG conference Mr. Hartnett enjoyed a stay in the 5 star Westin Diplomat Hotel at a reported £447 per night. He also allegedly racked up a £368 phone bill during the trip.
Following his comfortable stay at the Westin Diplomat Hotel, Hartnett was then hosted at the British ambassador’s residence for the remaining duration of his weeklong trip to Florida and Panama – which is estimated to have cost nearly £3,000 in total. Mr. Hartnett also visited Paris, France in April and May 2011 staying for three days at a time, for which he is alleged to have claimed back £1,377 in expenses.
The controversial head of tax at HMRC has voiced his disagreement of people who are ‘paid cash-in-hand’ and apparently ‘diddle’ the economy and public purse of taxes. Yet it is alleged that despite earning a salary of £160,000 per year and a pension said to be worth £1.7m, Hartnett has reportedly claimed for the following:
Dubbed the most ‘wined and dined’ civil servant after having been taken out to eat a total of 107 times in three years, Hartnett was treated to £875 a bottle Pol Roger Champagne and £140 caviar at the Savoy Grill during his time spent at the KPMG event in Florida, March 2011.
It is also alleged that Hartnett met with KMPG representatives another 10 times from January to September last year. The permanent secretary of tax at HMRC has denied MPs claims that ‘cosy’ relationships with big businesses has led to large tax bills of up to £25billion being written off.
Kevin Kinsella Jnr, of KinsellaTax, said:
“I’m afraid poor old Dave Hartnett has become the whipping boy of the press. Now it’s about expenses of £10,000 etc that he’s spent. This is a man who’s dealt with billions of pounds whilst he’s been with HMRC and most people who work for him speak highly of the man. He has to talk to tax advisors about high profile company affairs.
“There was a saying when I was at university, a Professor Brian Carsberg, who I believe has since been knighted, used to use the expression: ‘present day value of money’.
“In other words the pound in your pocket today will be wworthlessin two years time and tax cases can go over two, three, four, five years easily – especially if you’re fighting a company that’s got lots of money, powerful lawyers, powerful accountants and so even supposing that you get every penny you can get from the big boys it is sometimes wiser to settle – bearing in mind the present day value of money, for a lesser sum because at the end of the day it’s usually not far out from the eventual sum you get, again given the present day value of money and how money declines. You only have to ask a housewife whether she can buy less with the pound today than she could last year and the answer undoubtedly will be yes.
“We have to remember that people like Dave Hartnett have a hugely difficult job and it’s very easy to make cock-ups but this is a man who has to stand all the cock-ups made by other people in his departments. I’m not Dave Hartnett’s PR man – far from it – and I fight with the Revenue day in, day out for clients over tax issues so please don’t read this thinking I’m holding a banner up for Dave Hartnett. But you have to be totally fair. He has become the whipping boy of the press and anything that goes wrong tax wise etc then he is the man for everybody to lambast, and I quite frankly believe even politicians use it to hide their sins.
“Margaret Hodge, in the House of Commons, to call him a liar was a little bit out of order quite frankly. This is the lady who was head of Islington Council for ten years when a child abuse scandal occurred and she had to apologise to a gentleman who was actually abused, when she described him as ‘extremely disturbed’.
“At the end of the day yes he may have made a mistake and couldn’t remember a meeting but the person running the case in the Revenue often brings along the boss but the boss doesn’t effectively run the case, it’s always another inspector running the case and I’m sure that’s happened in Dave Hartnett’s case.
“Anyway I hope he has a good retirement, puts his feet up and rests because I think, quite frankly, he deserves it. I don’t think that he deserves the abuse that he seems to attract at the present time. He’s already lost the chance of a knighthood which usually follows these sorts of positions, so let’s get off the guy’s back and let him enjoy his retirement when he goes.
“If you look back in history you will find there was the case of John Bourn who stepped down as head of the National Audit Office (NAO) when he was criticised about the amount of money he spent on overseas trips, I believe the sum was £365,000 in three years and also meals in expensive restaurants which was £27,000 over the same period, so these things do happen. That was thirty years ago and going back to the present day value of money, £10,000 today is chicken feed.”
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