Wednesday 4 April 2018

HMRC's "customers" choose not to pay.

 On Monday 2nd April, a letter in the Guardian from PennyCiniewicz,  head of HMRC’s Customer (sic) Compliance Group, claimed with apparent satisfaction that the UK's tax gap  is "down to 6% - its lowest level ever and one of the lowest in the world."

Given that the latest figure for a year's tax actually collected is £752bn, by my calculation that uncollected 6% amounts to some £48bn.   That would have financed a lot of hospitals, schools, road repairs, decent payments for the sick and disabled,  or whatever else is in your wish list (parks, libraries?).  So there is no room for complacency.

Part of the problem of non-collection  is that the staffing levels at  HMRC are being cut by around a third as part of the "austerity programme" which is, would you believe it, designed to balance the government's books.

Joined up thinking this is not.

What I find irritating, if not quite so stupid, is that HMRC refers to we tax-payers (and non-payers) as "customers."  In normal parlance a customer has a right to choose to participate by buying or not buying the product in question.  And if the customer is not satisfied with the product he or she has the right to "take my custom elsewhere."

Such choices do not, or should not, apply to taxation.  But it could well be that the non-payers of the 6% are taking HMRC at their management-speak word by failing to participate - tax avoidance - or taking their custom elsewhere - tax evasion.

It is as citizens, not customers, that we pay tax.  We do not nor should not have a choice.  Rather we have a duty to pay for the proper functioning of the decent society in which we should all like to live.

Whilst on this hobby horse, we should stop referring to taxation as a "burden."  Rather those of us with incomes and wealth sufficient to make us liable for taxation are, and should regard ourselves as, privileged, not saddled with a burden.


  1. It would be good to see HMRC "exceed the expectations" of major tax-avoiding "customers".

    1. Yes, like all the best shops. We could give them five stars.