Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.
AIA

Treasury lawyer becomes HMRC tax deal referee

by
3rd Jul 2012
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

Former tax lawyer and current Treasury director general for tax and welfare, Edward Troup, has been appointed as HMRC’s first tax assurance commissioner. He also becomes second permanent secretary at HMRC, responsible for shaping tax policy and strategy and tax professionalism alongside his role in providing oversight on large tax settlements.

The appointment is a sensitive one, triggered in part by the retirement at the end of this month of permanent secretary for tax Dave Hartnett, who is bowing out after agreeing a series of controversial corporate tax deals with the likes of Vodafone and Goldman Sachs.

Troup has a strong tax and political pedigree, but may face some friction from MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC). As a partner with City lawyer Simmons & Simmons, Troup helped to grow the firm’s tax practice in the late 1990s. During this period he acted as a specialist tax adviser to Kenneth Clarke, helping the then chancellor to prepare the 1995 and 1996 Budgets, and then returned to the Treasury in 2004 as director of business and indirect tax.

Archive reports put Troup at the heart of the Inland Revenue-Customs merger process, prompting improvements in HMRC’s information gathering capabilities and tax policy-making that have continued to gain favour under the coalition government.

But he also has his detractors. Last November, during hearings into the effectiveness of the benefits system, committee members Margaret Hodge and Austin Mitchell commented on Troup’s “buck-passing” tendencies, with committee chair Hodge suggesting he took a “laid back” approach the Treasury’s role in overseeing benefits system.

Troup’s role as assurance commissioner may also raise eyebrows, as the role was conceived as a direct answer to the lack of separation between Hartnett’s role as a negotiator on large corporate disputes while also signing them off as an HMRC commissioner. The NAO and PAC have both been critical of the department’s lax governance in this area and while Troup can certainly bring legal expertise to the tax disputes table, will he be truly independent?

AccountingWEB’s tax podcaster Anne Fairpo was less concerned on this point. “It’s hard to say that someone from outside government would necessarily be more independent than someone from within government in general terms; multi-person processes seem a more practical way to work for independence,” she said.

HMRC also announced that former KPMG senior partner Ian Barlow has been appointed as lead non-executive director to replace chairman Mike Clasper, who is also leaving the department. Barlow currently chairs WSP Group plc and is a director of medical equipment group Smith & Nephew and the Brunner Investment Trust. His newly designated role with the department replaces the role of chairman, which was phased out in accordance with the government’s new code of good practice.

Both newcomers face major challenges, as job cuts, low morale and never-ending policy and operational changes have made HMRC a departmental pariah in Whitehall and beyond.

Barlow said he would act as a “critical friend” to HMRC’s executives, advising and encouraging them to deliver their objectives and holding them to account.

Troup commented: “I want to ensure that HMRC’s well-deserved pride in its achievements and its high standards are properly reflected in public confidence that all taxpayers, large or small, are being treated fairly.”

Tags:

Replies (5)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By johnjenkins
03rd Jul 2012 12:16

I wish them both

much luck and hope that they take a commonsense approach.

Thanks (2)
avatar
By Trevor Scott
03rd Jul 2012 12:43

No hope of accountability or change when even …

…Margaret Hodge and Austin Mitchell comment on Troup’s “buck-passing” tendencies.

 

Thanks (0)
avatar
By RICKIEG
06th Jul 2012 12:53

Aspects of change
I trust it will bring about a more thorough overview of current practise.
Moral and general attitude within Hmrc is at an all time low
It's a bumpy road ahead

Thanks (0)
avatar
By RICKIEG
06th Jul 2012 13:02

Aspects of change
I trust it will bring about a more thorough overview of current practise.
Moral and general attitude within Hmrc is at an all time low
It's a bumpy road ahead

Thanks (0)
avatar
By J Lessels
06th Jul 2012 14:35

No morals

Moral attitudes are certainly at an all time low. Or did you mean "morale"?!

Thanks (0)