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Press watch: MPs quiz HMRC officials again over tax disputes

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‘More than 4,000 companies are currently under investigation by the tax authorities, senior officials at Revenue & Customs revealed as they faced hours of hostile questioning by MPs over corporate tax avoidance.

‘Jim Harra, director-general of business tax at the Revenue, said the authorities were investigating the tax affairs of “just over 4,000” companies, although he was unable to say how many of these were large corporates ... Lin Homer, chief executive of the Revenue, was forced to admit that “sometimes we get things wrong” amid a blizzard of aggressive questions over so-called “sweetheart deals” between the tax authorities and large companies ...

‘Ms Homer defended deals between companies and officials to settle tax disputes, saying that they were preferable to spending more money on costly and long litigation. However, she repeatedly insisted that these were not “negotiations” and were certainly not “package deals” involving companies accepting some liabilities in return for dropping others. An official review of alleged “sweetheart” deals between the Revenue and businesses last week concluded that the agreements resulted in a good overall outcome for the exchequer – even as it raised concerns over how they were struck.’

Financial Times, 28 June 2012