The crisis at HMRC

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Dave Hartnett resigned from HMRC last week. That's the official story. But since he was saying he was saying he was staying for some time to come only a month beforehand that looks very unlikely to be the real case. It looks very likely he was pushed in haste. The fact that he has been replaced in such disorderly fashion by Lin Horner who had only been in her existing job for a few months makes that look all the more likely. And don't presume she is replacing Lesley Strathie alone - Hartnett's job was a one off.

But is this the new broom to restore good governance to HMRC - for that is what has been missing? I really doubt it. There are real doubts about her leadership of Birmingham - and her role as returning officer there when things went mightily wrong whether or not her fault. The UK Borders Agency, which she headed until January is a right mess - and she must accept some responsibility for that. And now Transport have shuffled her one as fast as possible. It's not a good sign.

And of course, she knows nothing about tax of any consequence.

But worse than that Hartnett's failure was one of poor governance. Weak Chairs of HMRC matched by a coterie of non-execs mainly recruited from major tax avoiders and Hartnett being the only Board member with any knowledge of tax led to his having unaccountable power - and from my own experience of dealing with him, it materially changed him.

I see no evidence that this governance weakness is being addressed.

And there's no sign that the culture of favouring big tax avoiders will change. That's what's really worrying.

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