Calls for resignation are a serious matter. Nevertheless, if the revelations about Goldman Sachs in The Guardian today are true, then Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary at HM Revenue, should resign.
1. He strongly implied that he was not involved in the Goldman Sachs case.
2. He said, in terms, that he was not permitted, and had received legal advice to that effect, to discuss this or similar matters with me or other MPs.
Thanks to Private Eye and The Guardian today, however, we now know:
1. The Revenue charged Goldman Sachs £10 million less than was owing. It failed to charge interest or penalties on Goldman, which had taken extreme measures to avoid paying the tax due in the first place and then fought to avoid payment for years. Dave Hartnett personally shook hands on the deal. There was extreme unhappiness about his doing so from senior colleagues.
2. HMRC had received specific advice from James Eadie QC that it could discuss cases with House of Commons committees.
In earlier testimony, Dave Hartnett told me that the Revenue never charged less than the tax owing--the Goldman Sachs shows this to be false. He also said that he could not recall seeing an example of tax evasion by a very big business. But who needs to evade tax when the Permanent Secretary is available to do private deals?
In my constituency I have hundreds of small firms, for whom the Revenue's penalties on unpaid tax are 200 times as high on average as those on large companies. There is a serious issue still outstanding of interest on tax unpaid by Vodafone. But this settlement with Goldman is the last straw: Dave Hartnett should resign.