Tax commissioners approve £1.7bn tax deals

The new tax assurance commissioners approved tax deals worth £1.7bn between HMRC and taxpayers during six months last year.

The three commissioners make decisions in sensitive cases, including those with more than £100m tax under consideration. The tax disputes resolution board was created after concerns about the way HMRC made deals with companies such as Vodafone and Goldman Sachs. Critics said HMRC let the companies off too much tax; something HMRC denies.

In the first six months under the new arrangements, the Tax Disputes Resolution Board referred...

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Reaction from BDO

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BDO tax partner Richard Rose outlines his thoughts on HMRC’s approach:

“We welcome HMRC’s commitment to resolving disputes with taxpayers within businesses, but there is a missing piece. 

Although HMRC’s strategic objective of maximising tax revenues collected is to be applauded in these austere times, the way in which they do this needs to be proportional to the businesses they are dealing with. There also needs to be more of a focus on helping UK businesses grow, after all “we’re all in this together” and economic growth in clearly in the interest of the Government, companies and individuals alike.

“HMRC have established a clear framework for dealing with taxpayer disputes, with many layers of checks and balances, but you get the distinct feeling these are aimed at big business. What is needed is a more focused and supportive framework built around medium sized businesses which will be, I would suggest, the engine room of economic recovery. This crucial business segment does not have the same resource available to it as big businesses in being able to deal with the onerous multiple layers of bureaucracy imposed on it by HMRC. One size does not fit all when it comes to corporate taxation and this needs to be recognised before a fair tax outcome is achieved.

“Too often we come across horror stories of medium sized businesses unable to cope with HMRC scrutiny and enquiry which saps time and resources of management that would be better focused on the running of their businesses, ultimately leading to wider economic growth.

“We would encourage HMRC to think about how they can help medium sized UK businesses grow by adjusting their strategic objectives to include “helping the UK economy grow” and embed this sentiment throughout their organisation.

In addition, we find too often that HMRC continue enquiries when it is clear that they have all the material facts which could determine the tax treatment. A greater willingness to conclude abortive enquiries much sooner would save time and expense for taxpayers and, of course, help HMRC itself by re-directing its efforts towards enquiries where additional taxation receipts may be secured for the Exchequer.”