Absolutely Vile – MPs’ Special Hotline To The Taxman


This is one of those things that simply should not be allowed to stand – Members of Parliament have a special hotline to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. One which is actually answered politely and promptly. This is vile, absolutely so, it is the garnering of privilege by exactly those who should not have it.

The justification is that those who deal with the tax affairs of such notables need to have security clearance. Thus there is this special office where those with such clearance work.

Yes, and the Soviet nomenklatura said they needed secure housing near the great ministries given the nature of their work which is why they got all the nice apartments in central Moscow. And the special Zil lane in the middle of the road so they didn’t have to stop at the lights like everyone else.

So, no, they shouldn’t get this on those grounds alone.

MPs and senior civil servants have a private “fast track” hotline to the taxman which avoids the long delays faced by the public. An office in Wales staffs four special phone lines to assist politicians and other “VIPs” with their tax queries. The calls were picked up immediately when tested. It is understood members of the royal family also have access to the line, which is available during working hours Monday to Friday. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said the staff answering these calls require special security clearance, which is why they are separated out from the public helpline.

Both of them together, the MPs and civil servants, are responsible for what a joyous experience it is to try calling HMRC. That they who set it up gain privilege above us who must use the system – no, that’s burning brand-time, pitchforks.

There’s an excellent piece of advice in “Up the Organisation”, one of the best business books ever. Any CEO – any senior executive in anything in fact – should try calling into her own office incognito. How far do you get? Do you get to the right department? The information you’re asking for? How, in reality, does your org deal with the unwashed out there?

Why would you do this? To see whether you’ve got the org set up the right way of course. And what does a privileged helpline do? Bypass exactly such feedback. So, stop it.

There is a – true – story about St Maggie. The census was coming up so she asked for a copy of the intended form along with the notes given to hoi polloi. Sat down and, following the written instructions, tried to fill it in. She insisted, demanded, that certain questions be dropped from the general form as being far too intrusive.

Perhaps the best way to put this, only when the governors use government are we likely to get good governance. And we do in fact say this about the NHS and state schools. So, why not HMRC?

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