I have already noted that HMRC's settlement of five major tax cases on little stronger basis than a negotiation recorded on the back of a fag packet has been strongly criticised by a judge reporting to the National Audit Office today.
But that's only part of the story on this issue. That report was timed, almost certainly, to coincide with the case brought yesterday by UK Uncut, challenging the legality of the deals HMRC entered into with Goldman Sachs - which was one of Hartnett's settlements. As the Guardian reports:
This is, first of all, a stunning victory for UK Uncut, and I warmly congratulate them on it.
Second, I think this is more than just a PR coup: what UK Uncut have made clear is that the law must be upheld, and as the challenge recognises, that may not be the case here. Tax practitioners (and I am still one) have long felt there's been one rule for the wealthy and large companies at HMRC and another for everyone else: indeed, that is now institutionalised in their management structure. And this legal challenge will look at that.
But as importantly, this challenge goes to the heart of the cosy relationship between global multinational corporations (who are challenging the very concept of government, which they pretend through their global status they are above) and those in government who are all too willing to ignore that threat to their authority. And that is really, really important.