Monday, March 22, 2010



I was sitting at home the other evening eating dinner and vaguely watching the TV between mouthfuls when at the end of the commercial break I noticed the legend “Sponsored by HM Revenue & Customs”.

I was intrigued. HMRC seem to me to be squeezed of resources. They look to have cut down substantially on enquiries. Their recent spate of “Disclosure opportunities” seem to be designed to raise cash quickly without having to incur the expenditure that would have allowed them to collect the much higher penalties that they have previously always sought from tax evaders. They seem to have come to the professional bodies with a begging bowl to try to promote joint training at joint cost.

So why are they spending taxpayers’ money sponsoring TV programmes? I don’t have a clue. They did come up with some slogans. The ones I noticed were: “Knowing the right ingredients helps you to succeed in business”; “Accurate paperwork is important to success in business”; “Cultivating opportunities is important to success in business”; “Being in tune with the market is important to success in business”.

What do all these have in common – apart that is from the copy writer being obsessed with the phrase, “important to success in business”? How about none of them mentions tax. Indeed none of them has any obvious connection with tax. The programme had nothing to do with tax either. It was one of those reality programmes where a millionaire business person patronises a couple of small businesses by expressing feigned surprise that a person who has come up with an idea and sought to exploit it does not know how to go about converting the idea into a viable business. Of course the businesses concerned are given some free advice in return for agreeing to have their naivety exposed on national TV. They may well feel that a fair price to pay for the help, in which case good for them.

But I am still puzzled why HMRC should think it sensible to spend your and my taxes sponsoring such a programme in order not to promote the importance of getting tax right, the need to think about tax consequences from day one, or even that successful businesses are happy taxpayers, but simply to suggest non-tax attributes that can contribute to business success.

If any reader can understand what on earth is going on, please explain to me how this is a sensible way to spend our taxes.

Robert Maas


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