Trying to distinguish incompetence from dishonesty

... how HMRC can sometimes make such a distinction hard to determine (even for a Judge).

Didn't find your answer?

First: I should declare that the following case was kindly brought to my attention, from his sabbatical lair, by our colleague Richard Thomas; who felt that it might be of interest to several of you - particularly I feel those who enjoy 'reading between the lines' of a Judge's wording when describing the witness evidence and it's reliability.

It is IMHO an extremely sad portrayal of how HMRC can malfunction, not just to the detriment of the innocent but with copious self-inflicted damage, in ways that would raise a fleet of red flags in almost any other organisation.


For those who want to read all of the recent decision in the Insolvency and Companies Court (Adjei v Official Receiver & ors.), it is at - a fairly harrowing tale, but one with an (eventually) fairly happy ending.

For those that simply enjoy seeing an HMRC employee being verbally eviscerated, you can get your kicks (unless your name is Mr Doyle) by going to points 35-45.


In his characteristically polite way, I feel sure that Richard might only describe this case as 'beating all the other recent instances of HMRC bad behaviour' ... I on the other hand take a more dystopian view that it is a worsening example of the lowering of standards (in both competence and moral judgement) that pervades govt - and specifically in this case HMRC.

How many taxpayers have the will/capability/finances to take on these cases of injustice ... and how many simply roll-over, unknown to us all, like a far more serious version of when people pay a traffic/parking  fine just to make it go away (despite being convinced of their innocence)?


N.B: I should point out that none of the views here are being expressed by Richard, he was merely the kind supplier of the fact that the case was worth a read.

Replies (15)

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By The Dullard
03rd Jul 2023 23:51

Ah, a tale of woe and bureaucratic mishaps brought forth by our dear comrade RT from their sabbatical lair. A captivating saga that shines a light on the unruly antics of HMRC, causing chaos and self-inflicted wounds, as if they were wielding a lightsaber with no Jedi training!

For those yearning to immerse themselves in the intricate details of the Insolvency and Companies Court case (Adjei v Official Receiver & ors.), venture forth to Be warned, it's a treacherous journey, filled with twists and turns, but fear not, a glimmer of hope awaits at the end, like finding a hidden treasure on Dagobah.

And if you delight in witnessing the verbal thrashing of an HMRC employee, oh the sweet satisfaction! Skip ahead to points 35-45, where the true evisceration begins. It's like watching a podrace with HMRC caught in the crossfire, racing towards their inevitable defeat.

RT, in their ever-polite demeanor, may describe this case as a supreme example of HMRC's misbehavior. But I, with a more rebellious spirit, see it as a manifestation of the deteriorating standards in the realm of government, an empire crumbling under the weight of incompetence and moral ambiguity. It's enough to make a Sith Lord blush!

How many taxpayers find themselves caught in the clutches of this injustice, unable to summon the power, the finances, or the Millennium Falcon to challenge the Empire? Do they surrender, like a bantha being herded into a pen, or do they rise up, lightsabers in hand, and fight for what is right?

Remember, even in the darkest times, there is always a spark of hope. We must rally together, resist the temptations of the dark side, and demand justice. Let the Force guide us as we navigate the treacherous waters of tax bureaucracy, ensuring fairness and accountability for all.

And let us not forget to thank RT for their benevolence in sharing this captivating tale. May their sabbatical lair continue to bring forth wisdom and amusing anecdotes, like an Ewok party in the heart of Endor.

May the tax be with you, always!

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Replying to The Dullard:
By The Dullard
03rd Jul 2023 23:52

Hugo, you've broken Yoda. He's just interpreting now!

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By Catherine Newman
04th Jul 2023 07:56

What a damning situation for HMRC to be in.

Some of this refers to telephone calls. These don't even happen now and things can only get worse.

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By Justin Bryant
04th Jul 2023 09:21

All entirely unsurprising.

The interesting bit is para 108, in contrast to these late permission to appeal cases where no such forbearance is given to LiPs (even if mentally ill etc.).

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
By Hugo Fair
04th Jul 2023 15:25

As you said within the earlier thread to which you've provided the link: "Shame on HMRC for having the gall to .. potentially ruin this person without any justification."

But that's it in a nutshell ... their culture no longer recognises 'shame' - and so they are quite literally shameless!

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By frankfx
04th Jul 2023 09:31

Numerous aspects of HMRC behaviour should be investigated.


The Accountancy bodies should make representations to HMRC.

Did anything from the start of the process follow expected practice?
Indeed what is expected good practice?

Where was the oversight?

HMRC officer Doyle is he subject to Disciplinary action?

His defence no doubt will be that all parts of HMRC are not fit for purpose and that he is embedded in this mess.

This case and the background features, dysfunctional environment no less, are worthy of a public airing.

I would be interested if this case could be a matter for a House of Commons Committee to investigate?

The defenceless hapless citizen subjected to a powerful Department of State's abuse of it's bulldozer power.
With sloppy systems and sloppy attitude to citizens hidden in full sight


None of the above featured in this case, these attributes have been absent at the door of HMRC for many years.

Perhaps accountants up and down the country should send a link to the CASE to our MPs.

Richard T.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

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Replying to frankfx:
By Catherine Newman
04th Jul 2023 19:27

These were my sentiments when I read it first thing this morning. It is beyond belief-persecuting an innocent employee. What got me most is why the partners didn't back her up from the outset-shameful.

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By taxdigital
04th Jul 2023 09:49

"Mr Doyle's written evidence was disingenuous at times."
"Mr Doyle's written evidence also contained statements that were simply untrue."

So far all this was limited to when communicating on phone with them. First time, I'm seeing this in print, that too from the evidence stage. Unbelievable!

Worryingly, I can't see this getting any better any time soon. There is no way to replace the current crop of HMRC officers (or glorified clerks as they are). Unless the professional bodies get together and get the MPs to do their bit we're having to deal with a sick institution that HMRC have become.

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By Duggimon
04th Jul 2023 10:38

Reading between the between lines, what seems to have happened here was that HMRC incorrectly recorded the name of the person filing and paying the PAYE for a business as the one responsible for the entire PAYE scheme.

Then, when their mistake was pointed out to them they decided to go after her, bankrupt her and take anything she owned in settlement of the debt rather than correct their own erroneous records and go after the employer.

The debt is not disputed, the business is behind on tax, and that tax is our money, it's the country's money and HMRC are the people who are supposed to collect if for us. They are so completely incompetent at that task that they instead spend two years pursuing someone who is not, could not possibly be liable for it and not pursuing the people who owe the tax, despite this having been pointed out to them at the start of the process.

They are completely failing at their one prime role, collect tax from those who owe tax. In this case they were told who owes the tax and who does not and pursued the wrong person, almost to their ruin, while ignoring the people who owed the tax. Were we to accept HMRC's evidence at face value, and they are a government office whose evidence we ought to be able to accept, this woman would have lost everything in service of her employer's debt.

It's no wonder HMRC can't catch people actively avoiding tax if they are unable to get it right when it is spelled out to them at length and payment plans are offered, which they were in 2021.

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paddle steamer
04th Jul 2023 10:39

Forgetting HMRC systems for a minute, ignoring processes, and this all boils down to employees taking ownership of a problem and dealing with a problem.

I do not work 9.00-5.00, I work what my role requires, if that is 8.00 pm still at my desk so be it, this is not unusual . In the private sector, especially the SME sector, this is commonplace, the success or failure of my employer is personal to me and I am joined at the hip with them striving to sort issues, make things work etc- I could never now work for a larger employer/the public sector, a life mainly working for SME type entities conditions my thinking.

The catch is I see little of this thought process applied in much of the public sector with which I interact (or utility companies for that matter), problems and issues are not personal to the employees they are just something that seems to happen to them between 9.00-5.00 (maybe 4.00 or 3.00 on a Friday).

This is not a swipe at everyone in the public sector, some work long and hard, they care, own the problems they encounter at work, deal with the problems, but an awful lot merely go through the motions of attendance and receiving another year's pension entitlement for same, I suspect that thought process trickles down from the top, so its "nae my problem", shuffle to someone else, no attention to detail, and the result is these sorts of incidents.

The shuffling of responsibility within HMRC is likely the real issue here, Mr Doyle mere symptom, cast ill prepared into court by his employers like a rabbit in the headlights, he is not the issue he is mere symptom.

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Replying to DJKL:
By spilly
04th Jul 2023 12:57

It does feel like large swathes of people are ‘quiet quitting’ by only doing the absolute minimum amount of work they can get away with.
Working in HMRC must be so demoralising now though, with Jim Harra just peddling his MTD dream, and not attempting to fix anything else.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
04th Jul 2023 11:49

Para 42 is pure gold.

"Whilst, overall, I am satisfied that he did his best to answer questions put to him honestly and to the best of his knowledge and ability, his knowledge was fairly limited"

"Quite how he considered himself capable of giving evidence on this issue was entirely unclear."

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
By Yossarian
07th Jul 2023 12:43

ireallyshouldknowthisbut wrote:

Para 42 is pure gold.

"Whilst, overall, I am satisfied that he did his best to answer questions put to him honestly and to the best of his knowledge and ability, his knowledge was fairly limited"

"Quite how he considered himself capable of giving evidence on this issue was entirely unclear."

I don't know what Mr Doyle looks like, but for me that somehow conjures up an image of Frank Spencer as an HMRC officer.

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07th Jul 2023 09:40

What is most shocking is that the winner had to pay their own costs!

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Replying to ABD:
By Hugo Fair
07th Jul 2023 11:40

Not as shocking as HMRC trying to claim the taxpayer should pay HMRC's costs!

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