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Nostalgia, tax avoidance and HMRC

I remember the past as a time when the summers were longer and sunnier, young people were respectful to their elders and politicians resigned with honour when they messed up.

I also remember with nostalgia the professional approach of tax inspectors – not much liked but nevertheless respected and with whom you knew you could have a fair conversation. That is not generally true any more.

But last Friday, I had a meeting with a GP client and a senior tax inspector at my office. My client has now been investigated four times, and each time HMRC walks away empty handed.

Last Friday to my mixed pleasure I found myself dealing with an old-school chap. He started the meeting by saying he was not bothered with the private use of the cars and use of home, he just wanted to focus on the main issues, which we did for a couple of hours, and now we wait to see if he can agree our contention.

But this non-nonsense approach was refreshing and reminded me of the old days when discussions were just that, not a penny pinching automaton determined to find something who plagues us with questions for months and months and then reduces the business mileage of the car to justify the investigation.

This investigation was whether my client had avoided tax, or rather, whether he had avoided tax in an unacceptable way. Everybody who has an ISA is avoiding tax. The term ‘tax avoidance’ covers a wide range.

I am sure the man on the street with an ISA would not expect a visit from HMRC, and my client after four visits is beginning to think of HMRC’s interest in him as bordering on harassment. But for me, it was a nostalgic visit to a warm summer’s day with Lord Carrington resigning and young men doffing their caps…

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