There is an argument, albeit one I don't find entirely persuasive, that big businesses such as Goldman Sachs actually deserve special treatment — they do, after all, contribute huge amounts to the nation's coffers, and perhaps their tax status is complicated enough to warrant negotiation and horse trading. But judging by this morning's exchanges, HMRC have instead chosen to simply deny the Public Accounts Committee's accusations. ‘The report is based on partial information, inaccurate opinion and some misunderstanding of facts,’ is how one of the department's spokesmen put it earlier. ‘The idea Dave Hartnett cuts a large tax bill in return for a glass of wine and a cheese sandwich is just plain nonsense.’
But whatever the truth of the matter, it's clear that HMRC is a department riddled with problems. I wrote, a couple of months ago, about their persistent blunders and oversights — and now this. The coalition has done great work in making Whitehall processes more transparent and streamlined, but that has often been on the spending side of the ledger. Now might be the time for George Osborne to open up the revenue side too.