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Press watch: ‘End the cuts to staff dealing with tax avoiders’

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‘Is the government tough on avoidance? It has produced a report on an anti-avoidance rule. Who did it ask to develop this – a member of HMRC perhaps, or a barrister used by HMRC to combat avoidance? No, it used Graham Aaronson QC, well known for representing large business and wealthy people in tax disputes. And Aaronson's suggestion is a rule so narrowly drawn that it will legitimise most of what the public recognises as avoidance.

'What of all those extra resources for HMRC? When it was formed by merging the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise in 2005, it had nearly 100,000 staff. Now it has 65,000, and this will continue to fall over the next two years to 56,000. This is an almost 50% cut that has far outstripped the genuine savings from merger and IT improvements. Any organisation facing 10 years of successive cuts would struggle with the consequences, and the problems HMRC has faced in recent years stem from this. In the spending review, the Treasury intended to cut the HMRC budget by a further £3bn over three years, but only cut it by just under £2bn – and this is what Osborne calls an investment of £900m. I know of nowhere else where a £2bn cut is described in such a way ...’

Graham Black, President of the Association of Revenue and Customs:
The Guardian, 17 April 2012