2012 could be a year for significant change at the top of HMRC, indeed it could be a year in which the organisation shows that it can recover against the odds, explains Simon Sweetman.
Following Lesley Strathie’s retirement on health grounds (sadly, today we have heard of her death at the age of 56) we have the announcement that Dave Hartnett will go next June. Mike Clasper, the chairman, presumably stays, but is a part timer and figurehead.
We also know that Lin Homer will be the new chief executive to replace Dame Lesley. In keeping with modern notions, she will be a total amateur in taxes: she has lately been head of the Border Agency and of the department of Transport, following a career in local government. That gives her substantially less relevant experience even than her predecessor, and absolutely no experience at the public interface.
We do not know, and probably will not know for some time, who will take Dave Hartnett’s place. One can assume this is likely to be an internal promotion, since nobody from outside is likely to take a substantial pay cut to take the job. Dave has in fact suffered an astonishing amount of personal abuse in recent years, much of it from contributors to this website, but has clearly had to carry a considerable burden as practically the only person at the top end of HMRC who knows anything about taxation (and, from my experience, has been sorely misrepresented). The only other member of the board with a tax background is Mike Eland, and even on the executive committee the two of them are joined only by Stephen Banyard. When Dave Hartnett appeared before the Public Accounts Committee he did say that he felt that more top level appointments should be people with tax backgrounds, but nothing has yet come of that.