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This week's opinion: 9 September 2021

07 September 2021 / Andrew Hubbard
Issue: 4807 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The age-old question of ‘who shall guard the guardsmen’ came up again in the recent report of the all-party parliamentary group on anti-corruption and responsible tax (APPG) (

One of its concerns is what oversight over HMRC there should be – in particular to prevent HMRC making settlements which the APPG thinks are ‘too favourable’ to big business. It discusses Sir Andrew Park’s review of various controversial settlements and makes the following extraordinary statement: ‘Even as a one-off scrutiny mechanism this process suffered from a number of defects. Principally, the details were not made public, and so it was not possible for the findings to be reviewed independently. In addition, the personnel involved were figures from the tax industry establishment, having the consequence that the process may, to some observers at least, seem not to be neutral and objective.’ 

Leaving aside the apparent slight on Sir Andrew’s integrity, this is yet another case of suggesting that experts cannot be trusted. I would be very concerned if HMRC settlements with any taxpayer were to be evaluated through the eyes of politicians who would inevitably bring their own strong feeling about what X or Y ‘ought’ to pay into what should be an objective discussion of what the law says they ‘should’ pay. 

I like provocative reports and some of what is said here is worthy of serious consideration (para 3.1 on confidentiality in particular). But please let’s never get into the world of taxation by public opinion. In the words of the great Tony Hancock: Did Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain? 

If you do one thing...

Read the CIOT guidance on stamp duty land tax refund claims. It has some helpful pointers to various potential problem areas (

Issue: 4807 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
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