Tax settlement processes criticised
Jun 15 2012
Tax officials have been criticised by the public spending watchdog for their handling of multimillion-pound tax settlements with major companies.
The National Audit Office said it was concerned about the processes used by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for reaching agreements.
But it found that, in five cases that it asked former High Court tax judge Sir Andrew Park to examine, the settlements were "reasonable" and fair to the public purse.
Sir Andrew was called in by the NAO after MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned that taxpayers' money was at risk from "secret deals" between HMRC and big firms.
In a report, the NAO said the HMRC took decisions which were incompatible with its established settlement strategy and that specialist staff were sometimes excluded from negotiations or did not understand the reasons for settlement.
NAO chief Amyas Morse said: "On the basis of Sir Andrew Park's reports, I conclude that the settlements reached by HMRC in these five cases were all reasonable. Moreover, in settling them, the department successfully resolved multiple, long-outstanding tax issues.
"However, our concerns over the processes by which the settlements were reached have been confirmed. It was not appropriate to set up governance arrangements specific to certain cases or to fail to apply processes correctly."
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