UK Uncut and students from the University of London today forced HMRC boss Dave Hartnett to abandon a keynote speech at the Tax Journal Conference 1 after staging a mock thank-you celebration from top tax dodgers.
The students, dressed as executives from Vodafone and Goldman Sachs, entered the main auditorium just after Hartnett had begun speaking.
Having made their way up to the stage, they presented the embattled HMRC boss with bottles of wine, flowers and champagne as a mock ‘thank you’ for Hartnett’s role in letting the firms off billions of pounds in tax.
A blushing Hartnett was forced to leave the stage as the ‘executives’ continued to sing his praises.
Hartnett has come under increasing fire for striking backroom deals with mega-rich corporations that have cost the taxpayer billions of pounds at a time of austerity 2.
As recently as Monday, Britain’s top taxman was dragged in front of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee for a third time to answer questions on the dodgy deals with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs that cost the taxpayer up to £6bn and £10m respectively. The session ended with Hartnett being forced to deny he had plans to resign 3.
University College London student Katie Clarke said: “Dave Hartnett signed off Vodafone’s £6bn tax dodge. That money could have prevented not just the cuts to higher education, but all of the cuts in public services over the past year. If Hartnett had a shred of self-respect he’d resign immediately.”
UK Uncut supporter Greg Tomasson said: “HMRC has just announced it will be going after 146,000 pensioners to demand hundreds of pounds from them following a tax code cock-up. Meanwhile, its boss is striking secret deals with mega-rich corporations to let them off billions of pounds in tax. Hartnett has brought the UK’s tax system into disrepute and he has to go.”
1 The conference, billed as ‘the definitive event for the corporate tax community’, featured sessions on ‘mitigating tax risk’ and ‘tax optimisation’ and involved some of the richest companies in the world including HSBC, Rolls Royce, Shell and Government-owned RBS.
2 A survey last year found that Hartnett was Whitehall’s most ‘wined and dined’ civil servant, treated by corporations 107 times in 3 years to top a survey of 172 senior civil servants. Tory MPs and commentators from across the political spectrum have joined the call for Hartnett to resign.