Rumours of HM Revenue & Customs’ omnipotence seem to have gone to its head.
Rather than decamp to a hotel serving curly sandwiches for a pow-wow, the not-quite-yet-all-powerful taxman has booked Westminster Abbey. Yes, Westminster Abbey.
Although the venue is more used to holding Royal weddings and coronation ceremonies, next month the taxman (or should that be the taxpayer?) will pay for HMRC employees from across the country to congregate there for a bonding session.
An HMRC spokesman denies reports it will be a “thanksgiving” service, but says it will instead help deliver a “shared sense of purpose” and boost staff morale. HMRC is also keen to point out it is not paying to use the Abbey and that staff will only be there if attendance does not get in the way of fleecing the flock.
But I cannot help titter at how appropriate the venue is for an increasingly powerful HMRC.
Advisers and clients are used to checking their behavior for fear of being banished from tax-compliant heaven on the day of Judgement.
But HMRC’s Connect computer system acts as an all-seeing eye, analysing various data sources for clues of tax fiddles. Plans to recover debts directly from the bank accounts and Isas of those who refuse to accept the Good News and pay their taxes could be said to amount to a form of divine tax intervention.
And now we learn that HMRC chief executive Lin Homer has chosen the nation’s church to give her disciples her blessing. If only former Cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell – known in Whitehall as G.O.D – had moved to HMRC the image would have been complete.
While HMRC says the event is for those of “all faiths and none”, according to one report there will be hymns. Given my recent Advisers Prayer blog I can’t help but put forward a few ideas for the hymn sheet, notwithstanding the number one choice of ‘Jesus Paid it All’.
So, with a tweak here and there, I suggest: ‘I vow to tax my country’, ‘Lord of the tax’ and ‘Take my tax and let it be’.
Steve Tolley is a reporter at Money Marketing