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One minute with...Rod Stone OBE

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You were at HMRC for 40 years as a leading investigator and VAT compliance expert. What would you consider to be your greatest achievement during this time? 
Following the opinion of the Advocate General published in 2005 in Optigen Ltd, missing trader intra-Community (MTIC) fraud increased to an unprecedented level and threatened to impact the UK economy. Previous attempts by HMRC to stem losses had floundered. A new strategy was urgently required. Building upon the principles developed by the CJEU in Halifax, BUPA and Huddersfield University, I developed the ‘abuse of right’ or ‘knowledge’ principle to combat VAT fraud. 
I oversaw the implementation of HMRC’s ‘knowledge project’ to ensure it did not lose momentum, made in excess of 1,200 witness statements and gave evidence in more than 100 tribunal appeals and 80 criminal trials. The application of the ‘knowledge principle’ to combat VAT fraud was confirmed by the CJEU in Kittel. Since 2006, HMRC has denied VAT input tax claims in excess of £3.2bn and reduced MTIC fraud by £3.5bn a year.
You’ve recently joined 4 Eyes Ltd Tax Solutions. What is on your ‘to do’ list?
My former role in HMRC policy and enforcement, gave me unparalleled insight into indirect tax, financial crime and money laundering. Together with my colleagues, I want to work with clients to ensure the absolute integrity of supply chains.
It is imperative that clients ensure supply chain integrity. The requisite tests are applicable to all supply chains involving both intangible and tangible commodities and are not confined to tax matters, encompassing most types of financial crime and money laundering. 
Comment on a topical issue in VAT.
Insolvency action is now used by HMRC to recover lost VAT. The decision of the Supreme Court in the matter of Jetivia SA and another (Appellants) v Bilta (UK) Limited (in Liquidation) (respondents) which concerned MTIC fraud in the carbon trading market, upholds this approach. Given recent HMRC successes and continued judicial support, I expect to see further development in this area.
What do you regard as the high point of your career?
When I was awarded the OBE in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to tax investigation. This honour could not have been achieved without the support of my colleague investigators who investigated the individual cases.
Aside from your immediate colleagues, whom in tax do you most admire?
I most admire Sir Alan Moses, former Lord Justice of Appeal and now chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation. His judgment in Teleos PLC had a significant impact on the development of ‘knowledge’ cases. His subsequent judgment in Mobilx Ltd upheld the use of the principle and the manner in which such frauds are investigated.
Looking back on your career to date, what key lesson have your learned?
To keep arguments simple, assume nothing and to ensure that all lines of enquiry are properly investigated. Not doing so will generally result in an adverse decision.
Tell us a secret.
I am a lifelong West Ham fan and season ticket holder. At each home game, I join the other 35,000 armchair managers and employ my experience to select the team, talk tactics and right wrongs.
Issue: 1269
Categories: One minute with