HMRC to get rid of 1 in 6 staff tackling specialist personal tax abuse

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As the Guardian has just reported:

George Osborne's budget promise to fund a clampdown on tax [avoiders and] evaders appears to be under threat after a leaked memo showed that HM Revenue & Customs is to lose up to 300 [specialist] staff this year.

Mary Aiston, HMRC's director of specialist tax, which targets high-end taxpayers and complex cases, has written that the jobs from the unit will go by 2015 – and adds that those who remain will be asked to deliver more revenue with less resources.

PCS, the union that represents the majority of HMRC staff sent me this press release relating to this issue:

Ministers' rhetoric on tax avoidance undermined by fresh cuts

The government's claim to be clamping down on tax avoidance is undermined by fresh job cuts to specialist staff, the Public and Commercial Services union says.

HM Revenue and Customs has announced that up to 17% of jobs in its specialist personal tax (SPT) division will go this year because they "are being challenged to deliver more with less", according to a senior manager.

The union says this indicates a shift away from chasing the wealthier taxpayers and more complex cases, and comes as 23 staff in the Edinburgh office of HMRC's high net worth unit learned this morning their office will close.

One week ago, as part of an effort to head off anger over corporate tax avoidance, chancellor George Osborne said in his budget speech: "I am increasing HMRC's budget to tackle non-compliance."

But in a message to SPT staff, director Mary Aiston explains that in 2014/15 about 250-300 jobs will go and that the target for the amount of tax they collect is less than they are likely to bring in this financial year.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The rhetoric from the government on the need to tackle tax avoidance, which deprives our economy of tens of billions of pounds every year, is completely undermined by its actions.

"Instead of investing in the department that collects the taxes that fund the public services we all rely on, it is making it harder to chase down these wealthy individuals and organisations."

As the Guardian note:

The chancellor unveiled a series of measures in the autumn statement designed to close tax-avoidance loopholes that were hoped would raise £6.8bn. However, the Treasury select committee said earlier this month that the forecasts were "inherently extremely uncertain".

Cutting staff is the one way to guarantee HMRC fail. It's the option they are choosing.

Disclosure: I advise PCS, but had nothing to do with this story