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HMRC boss Dave Hartnett is the man responsible for cutting dodgy deals with Vodafone, Goldman Sachs and other large corporations that have cost the taxpayer billions in lost revenue.
When we discovered that he was making his retirement speech at an elite tax avoidance conference, we couldn't resist popping in. We donned our best Goldman Sachs and Vodafone costumes, bought some flowers and knocked up a fake award. This is what happened.
Incorrect income tax collection
In September 2010 Hartnett was widely criticised for refusing to apologise for the HMRC "scandal" that saw millions of people being asked for back dated tax after it was alleged that his department had failed to collect PAYE underpayments correctly. He told BBC Radio Four "I'm not sure a need to apologise ...We didn't get it wrong." He later did issue an unreserved apology.
Hartnett was named by City University London in July 2010 as the most "wined and dined" civil servant in Britain, having been treated to corporate hospitality 107 times over a period of three years.
He stated that his approach to tax disputes with large corporations was "handling disputes in a non-confrontational way and collaborating with customers wherever possible".Harnett claims that this approach secured larger settlements of tax collected faster and more cheaply than if HMRC had taken the taxpayers to court, but this is disputed by Private Eye, who cite particular deals made by Harnett including the arrangement with Vodafone that lost the exchequer approximately £6 Billion.
He was reported as having claimed £10,000 in expenses in 9 months.
Corporate tax avoidance
From October 2010 onwards protesters have been blockading and protesting outside Vodafone stores across the UK following allegations of tax evasion of up to £6 billion, illustrated in a series of articles in Private Eye. These articles alleged preferential treatment of Vodafone due to personal connections between Hartnett and John Connors, Vodafone's head of tax, a former colleague at HMRC.
In May 2011 Private Eye alleged Hartnett personally "shook hands" on a deal over a long-running tax avoidance dispute with Goldman Sachs dating back to 2002, without consulting HMRC lawyers, letting the US bank off around £10m in interest. Complaints from HMRC informants that Hartnett personally intervened in settlement cases and agreed to "sweetheart deals" with no explanation or consultation with lawyers have also been published.[verification needed] In October 2011, The Guardian published leaked papers regarding the deal.
Hartnett was presented by activists from UK Uncut with a spoof "Golden Handshake award" at a New College Oxford dinner honoring his retirement in September 2012: several activists donned evening dress and name badges indicating they were from Vodafone and Goldman Sachs and effused over Hartnett's help in saving those companies billions of pounds in taxes. Chairman and head of chambers Robert Venables QC, close friend of Hartnett who was at the dinner, first told the intruders to "depart immediately, before we set the dogs on you", before finally ejecting them with the final words "You are trespassing scum. Go"