This post might be familiar to some, as it was posted as a comment earlier this morning. I thought it worth putting up as a piece on its own.
In context, it was replying to Ecojon’s suggestion of an HMRC master plan in relation to the Big Tax Case.
And now I will pass you over to Raycharlez for his thoughts, with my thanks to him, and I will be back at the end with a quick comment.
I would love to fully buy into your writings about HMRC’s legal strategy.
It conjures up a cogent picture of a coherent organisation making long-term legalistic chess moves in a game they are close to mastering.
But I find myself agreeing with Adam’s “hunch” on this one, although for my own non-legalistic reasons.
(Hi Adam, by the way. Nice to see you back. I vividly remember you from RTC and welcomed you back after your last sabbatical. I recall asking you the last time where you had been and you were courteous enough to reply with a voluminous and persuasive explanation. It is indeed serendipitous that another gap in your work commitments and projects has allowed you to return again so soon after the tax ruling. However, I am disappointed, but not surprised, that you are raising the “leak” issue so aggresively. If it was a criminal trial and the material leaked was sub judice then I would be with you 100 per cent. As it is, I believe that from a de facto perspective the information released by RTC was in the public interest and was akin to the leaked information relating to MPs expenses that found their way into the Telegraph.)
But to get back to my point,.
Ecojon, please remember I am a simple layman.
As such I view HMRC as a typical Westminster operation.
In other words it’s a bit of an anachronistic shambles.
I actually gave up reading Private Eye as it only filled me with despair at the way the nation state I live in is administered and governed.
My perception is that while HMRC may be good at going after small-time companies and taxpayers, who can’t afford accountants or lawyers, they struggle against the top dogs who employ legal experts at the pinnacle of their profession.
I realise HMRC has won important cases such as Sempra but is it possible to estimate HMRC’s rough batting average at the high-end scale when they are taking on major corporations in complex tax cases?
At the moment I feel compelled to use Adam’s Occam’s razor approach.
As such, it appears HMRC simply made a mess of a slam-dunk case.
I have read many stories over the years about under-pressure prosecutors failing to convict people in criminal courts because they failed to fill in a legal form correctly or got their dates mixed up.
Such things will happen even in modern constitutional systems that are administratively well-run and well-funded.
But this is Britain. A cobbled-together amalgam that layers modernity on top of an incoherent and somewhat odd feudalistic legal framework.
A country where our fellow citizens don false wigs, olde worlde gowns and silk clobber before addressing red-robed punters as “your Lordship”.
This sort of thing strikes me as strange behaviour in the 21st century and only reinforces my belief that the legal profession as presently constituted is a major barrier that would have to be overcome in order for a modern and legalistically cohesive state to be created, whether that be in the UK as a whole or Scotland in isolation.
It is not perhaps a bit ironic that many people on this blog – who I assume will normally be quick to recognise and lambast the intrinsic ineptitude of government departments in our antiquarian state – have suddenly become convinced that HMRC are tactical legal whiz kids waiting to spring a well-laid trap on Mr Black.
Those cool cats at HMRC must be using Ali’s old rope-a-dope trick!
Is it not actually better to assume they are more like the blundering prehistoric blazers who inhabit the SFA – a 19th century organisation no longer fit for purpose in the modern world.
The outmoded SFA, the legal establishment and Her Majesty’s revenue service all appear to belong in a bygone era to me.
Sorry for the pessimism Ecojon but, as they say in Dragons Den, that’s where I’m at and I’m not buying in to your analysis*.
(*I reserve the right to buy in at a later date if you are right)
Readers of the FTT decision would have noted the reference to Mr Thomson for HMRC being out-numbered 4-1 by the MIH legal reps.
Was HMRC’s decision a recognition of Mr Thomson’s undoubted skills?
Was it proof of HMRC thinking it had an open goal?
Was it an economic step? In which case “penny wise, pound foolish”?
Posted by Raycharlez, with added meanderings by Paul McConville