Yesterday, in the Commons I spoke in the debate on Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion to discuss figures in a report by PCS Union and Justice Network which showed that the tax gap between the amount that should be paid to HMRC and what is being paid could be as high as £112 billion.
In the debate, I highlighted how successive Tory Governments have failed to address widespread tax avoidance and evasion, while at the same time choosing to make savage cuts to public services and social security safety nets.
Under this government, and previous Tory ones, our public services have been under-resourced. We have seen infant mortality rates in England increasing, life expectancy has faltered, and foodbank use has soared. Contrast that to those in society who under this Government’s watch have benefited from sweetheart deals, while they have allowed large companies to shift profits to avoid paying their taxes.
Earlier in the year, I revealed figures that showed 80 full-time posts were cut from the wealthy unit in a single year, the unit which is responsible for chasing tax avoidance and evasion. That left over 400 fewer people working for HMRC chasing tax avoidance than the DWP had employed chasing benefit fraud. This is despite benefit fraud costing the treasury just a tiny fraction of what tax avoidance does.
One would think that on an issue such as chasing a large amount of unpaid money, the Government would ensure that the Department was resourced accordingly, and they would not be reducing the number of full-time employees in that unit.
Is it that HMRC have had issues hiring staff, which might suggest that a major recruitment strategy should be put in place, or more likely is the UK Government wilfully reducing numbers to protect avoiders and evaders.
Either way, the Chancellor and Government have questions to answer about why these 80 full-time-equivalent posts disappeared from the unit in a year when we have a widening tax gap?