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Value for money

May 10, 2016

“A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing” is, famously, the answer to the question “what is a cynic”: perhaps, however, it should be the answer to the question “what is an austerity politician?”

As a retired tax inspector and trades unionist, I still receive copies of ARC news, the journal of the union of senior HMRC professionals, and the latest issue dropped on my doorstep over the weekend.  There is an interesting article on HMRC’s approach to flexibility.  (Essentially most tax professionals could do most of their work from wherever they happened to be, if HMRC provided them with the modern computer and communications equipment to support them and didn’t treat them like children who need to be under the grown-ups’ eye.)  However the passage which interested me was this, and I hope they will forgive me for quoting it in full.

I’ve even heard suggestions that some folk, about to come off the department’s key training scheme as Grade 7s, have been told they are likely to be placed straight into the redeployment pool.  We can’t stop the private sector poaching our trainees – after all we recruit great people, we provide great training and then we pay well below the market rate – but it does seem quite a perverse approach to put someone through this expensive training process only to say, in effect, “we don’t want you”.

So let’s get this straight.  The government pays to recruit people into a career as a tax professional.  It trains them, expensively (because they are a cost to the department in salaries, accommodation and the provision of training and mentoring but are not yet producing the kind of tax yield we get from full tax professionals).  Then, at the point where their training is complete and the investment might start to pay off, we tell them they’re no longer required?

You see, I suppose it could be some kind of machiavellian plot to ensure that the entire tax profession was socialised into the HMRC way of thinking.  It could be, I suppose, if we believe HMRC to have sufficient institutional self-awareness to understand institutionalisation and understand that it actually has a viewpoint.  Why would the industry trouble to support trainees through long and expensive tax training if it can poach HMRC’s, just at the point where they’re trained but not too expensive?  But, ha ha, they all have imbibed the HMRC values with their mother’s milk and will carry on the rest of their careers believing that HMRC is right and the rest of the industry is wrong???

No, I didn’t think so either.  Dear tax industry: get poaching!

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