HMRC Newspeak – The Customer


It seems that taxpayers are ‘customers’ of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Newspeak has pervaded all executive arms of government, non more so than HMRC. In the HMRC publication “Delivering our Vision Business Plan 2009-10” the declared purpose of HMRC is to: –

1. Make sure that money is available to fund the UK’s public services.

2. Help families and individuals with targeted financial support.

To this end HMRC’s published ‘vision’ states, “We will close the ‘tax gap’, our customers will feel that the tax system for them is fair and even-handed, and we will be seen as a highly professional and efficient operation”. I find it somewhat difficult to imagine myself as being a customer of the exchequer, buying its services willingly with my tax contributions. Moreover, HMRC’s declared purpose is to ensure that monies are available to meet the demands of the UK’s public services. Given this purpose, I feel that I am more in thrall to the executive with no option to place my ‘custom’ elsewhere. I may of course seek some method of reducing the cost to me for these ‘services’, which I am buying with my taxes. However, HMRC have declared that while they are ‘passionate in helping those who need it’, they are ‘relentless in pursuing those who bend or break the rules’.

By this they mean ‘tax avoidance’, against which they will mount a ‘robust response’ by taking necessary action to ensure the effectiveness of their disclosure regime. They will do this by actively engaging with their customers, and through investigation and legal action. In addition, they will advise ministers on new legislation to close down ‘tax avoidance schemes’. At which point, I, as a customer, don’t know whether to laugh or cry! I now find myself being the customer of a service provider, the contractor, who is in reality the exchequer, and who, in the real world of customer/contractor relationships, could be sued for trading while insolvent. But of course, in this case the contractor can never become insolvent. The contractor, being the exchequer, simply increases the price of the services to the customer, who is in reality, the thrall.

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