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One minute with ... Pete Miller

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What attracted you to tax?

Back in the late 1980s the Inland Revenue was recruiting quite heavily among the scientific community. It looked like an interesting career, so I applied and was accepted for training as an inspector. The rest, as they say, is history.

Who in tax do you most admire?

If I have to name someone, I’ll pick my district inspector from my training days in Birmingham 6 district, Malcolm Pratt, and his deputy DI, Fred Gainey. Between them, they taught me a huge amount about how to do tax and how to operate the tax system in a practical and pragmatic way; all the stuff that you don’t get taught at training school.

The most difficult part of your job?

Balancing marketing and doing the work in a small practice. Mercifully, I get a lot of help (although never in tax!) from my wife and business partner, Tracey. Otherwise, I don’t know how I’d cope!

What’s the most significant tax case in recent years?

In my lifetime, I would pick Ramsay, because it changed the whole paradigm as to how statute is to be interpreted.

More recently there has been a whole raft of First-tier Tribunal decisions referring to HMRC’s approach to penalties, suggesting that the department is being inconsistent and at times unrealistic in its expectations.

Those cases, coupled with a number where HMRC has simply failed to present evidence to support its position, suggest a need to get its act together somewhat better.

If you could make one change to UK tax law, what would it be?

We need to have stronger oversight of the way HMRC wields its powers.

It would help trust all round if there were an independent oversight board that helped ensure HMRC exercised its powers with the degree of responsibility, professionalism, discretion and simple good faith that we expect from our revenue authorities and which HMRC has traditionally delivered.

Where do you stand on the introduction of a GAAR?

I am an agnostic on the overall concept. But I have a real concern that the administration of a GAAR would fail, given HMRC’s attitudes in recent years. HMRC has taken, or been given, too much power and has also managed to have enacted a lot of legislation which effectively taxes everything unless HMRC says so. Giving HMRC a GAAR would, in my view, be the worst thing possible for the administration of the tax system.

Highlight of your career?

Starting my own business six months ago. It’s been very scary but incredibly exciting, too.

What has HMRC got right?

Not enough in recent years, unfortunately. The ‘customer service’ is appalling, as we all know, too much consultation is pointless as major decisions have already been made, and HMRC seems to have done everything it can to erode trust between itself, taxpayers and the tax profession.

You might not know this but at heart I’m ...

… secretly longing to go into space, and perhaps walk on the moon. I don’t think I would have made it as an astronaut but perhaps I might have directed my scientific interests towards space.