Civil servants "unfairly criticised" in Google tax row, says the FDA's Dave Penman

FDA general secretary Dave Penman says HMRC staff should not be blamed for internet giant Google’s controversial tax deal

By Jim Dunton

29 Jan 2016

HM Revenue and Customs staff have been wrongly exposed to political flack over internet giant Google’s controversial £130m tax deal, union leader Dave Penman has said.

Penman, who is general secretary of public service leaders’ trade union the FDA, said criticism of the deal – which relates to outstanding tax from 2005 onwards – should lie with ministers, not tax officials.

Chancellor George Osborne announced the settlement on January 23, describing it as a “major success”. But the deal quickly attracted criticism, not least from the Labour Party, which said it equated to a 3% tax rate for the company. HMRC's business tax director Jim Harra has defended the agreement, arguing that opponents "misunderstood" corporation tax rules. 

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Penman said it was wrong for civil servants to be barracked for applying tax laws as they currently stood, and called on ministers to invest in HMRC to help deliver even higher compliance levels.

“Governments and politicians of all colours are vulnerable to lobbying and accusations of being anti-business when it comes aggressive tax legislation. Tax officials are not,” he said.

“Enforcement requires a continued investment in HMRC if it is to unravel the complex avoidance strategies of multinationals, and the many millions of pounds that these companies invest in big accountancy firms to support their strategies.

“Underpaid civil servants have been working tirelessly on behalf of the public to ensure that everyone – from multinational corporations to individuals – pays the correct amount of tax as the law requires.

“HMRC has demonstrated that investment in highly-skilled public servants delivers results. During the previous parliament, HMRC achieved record-breaking revenues of more than £517bn, with compliance yields up by more than 43% since 2011-12. All of this was achieved whilst meeting government demands to cut resources by around 25%.

“However convenient it is for politicians to use civil servants as political pawns, if ministers are serious about further tackling multinationals, they need to provide tax officials with the legislation and resources to deliver the results they seek.”

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