2000 of around 8000 HMRC staff in Scotland could be lost within five years
LEADING tax specialist Richard Murphy has criticised plans to reduce the number of tax collectors in Scotland by around 25 per cent "sheer madness".
The job cuts are part of a ten year plan that would also see the closure of major tax offices in Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, East Kilbride and elsewhere, retaining just a rump of tax collection offices and infrastructure. The plan is now at the half way stage according to HMRC.
Speaking to CommonSpace, the economist said: "This is a policy of sheer madness from the UK Government.
"The consequence of this will be that not enough tax will be collected, and the gulf between taxes raised on the rich and on the poor grows. The results are poor service and alienation from the tax office, with people losing trust in the tax system."
The jobcuts and office closures are part of a overhaul of HMRC that is being rolled out across the UK.
According to the PCS union, which organises workers in HMRC, more than 10,000 jobs have been lost in the tax collection service since 2010. The union claims that under staffing of HMRC is a major contributory factor in tax evasion and avoidance.
Defending the scheme, Lin Homer, HMRC's Chief Executive, said "HMRC has too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices. This makes it difficult for us to collaborate, modernise our ways of working, and make the changes we need to transform our service to customers and clamp down further on the minority who try to cheat the system."
However, Murphy stressed the importance of personnel in collecting taxes: "You cannot collect taxes without people. The idea that you can do it with only computers and an automated system is just nonsense," he said
"You need people to exercise judgement, and you need tax collection to be based and where people live and work," he added.
He also said that Scotland was particularly hard hit by the remoteness of the tax system under the new plans: "Tax collection becomes remote from the people of Scotland. If you live in the north of the country your nearest tax office will be Edinburgh. This is a disaster for tax collection in Scotland."
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for urgent discussions with the UK Government over the cuts.
During the independence referendum, the campaign for a No vote highlighted the jobs provided by HMRC in Scotland as a reason to reject independence.
Picture courtesy of Financial Transparency Coalition