Four big accountants get Hodged good and proper

For those of you that missed it earlier, Margaret Dodge spoke to representatives from the Big Four accountancy firms. We all know how slippery characters such as Belinda Dodwell can be so it was a good job Hodge was covered by parliamentary privilege to accuse them all of being liars and deliberately breaking the law.

These allegations are, of course, completely true. But Margaret is a fragile soul and I dare say she could be intimidated by these evil bean-counters with ad hominem attacks in the form of cases of defamation and slander.

As I will be appearing on the One Show tonight to discuss my forthcoming book, Cashing In by Murphy Richards, I will be able to insinuate similar things on mainstream television. I am sure that most of you will see that this is a good thing.

There is, in particular, one thing that I shall be trying to mention as much as possible. As Margaret Hodger points out, it is unacceptable that the big firms provide secondees to help give commercial and technical advice to HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs.

This is a totally immoral arrangement. Nobody in the public sector should even speak to these grubby little avoiders, let alone actually listen to them. So what if they don’t get paid. Come on, it’s clear that they are there to insert loopholes into the most benign pieces of legislation.

I was particularly glad to hear that Dodge specifically mentioned John Whiting of PricewaterhouseCoopers who has been sitting in the unpaid post of head of the Office of Tax Simplification in recent years. In this role he has driven through horrifically neoliberal “simplifications” and “improvements” to the tax system. Of course, I mean he has inserted into legislation reliefs specifically aimed at people called John and enhanced deductions for cricket club membership.

John also uses his malign influences at the first-tier tribunal to taunt HMRC by finding in favour of the taxpayer for the most ridiculous of reasons. In one case, he even tried to find for the taxpayer by saying that HMRC had failed to incorporate the expression “Simon says” into the VAT surcharge notice.

I notice from the judgement in Eco-Hygiene Limited [2011] UKFTT 754 (TC) that this passage has been omitted. But as sure as Margaret Hodge knows her tax, it happened.

The fact that this reprobate has been appointed as a non-executive board member is yet another disgrace.

We should have somebody who has experience of making moral judgements and has a good idea about fairness. I suggest Nick Cohen or Polly Toynbee who clearly know nothing of tax but have displayed a great deal of good judgement on such matters. Somebody with John’s experience is clearly completely inappropriate to appoint to any role at HMRC.

Nobody in the public sector should have ever worked in the private sector. The insidious influence of working anywhere but the civil service permeates everything that a person might ever possibly be in the future.

Of course, there are a few of us who have been entrepreneurs in the leftwing sense who may feasibly make the transition. But we are few and far between.

Another area I was appalled to hear about was the fact that KPMG were trying to get businesses to come to the UK to avoid tax using a new scheme known as the “patent box”. This awful scheme should be consigned to the dustbin, as should “transfer pricing” or the new “employment income provided through third parties” rules.

Other things that should go are the “settlement rules”, “income shifting” and “sale of occupation income” schemes which are practically enshrined in legislation.

But what I was most nauseated at was the tone and rudeness displayed by the accountants. Whenever they were asked a polite and relevant question, they replied in the most venomous and denigrating manner, practically accusing poor Margaret Hodger of lying, cheating and even deliberately perpetrating crimes.

They repeatedly cut her off mid-question and refused to acknowledge what she had just said. They accused her of getting facts wrong contrary to public records and insisted she talk about individual cases in breach of client confidentiality.

Margaret Hodger managed to negotiate all of this with great dignity and grace. But I fear that many will have just seen the sound-bytes from the obnoxious little bean counters and think that they somehow “won”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

All the member of the Public Accounts Committee can hold their head up high knowing that they have presided over what can only be a high point in Parliamentary standards.

Be sure to tune in to the One Show later!

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