Friday, 14 October 2011

Special tax treatment for Goldman Sachs

No doubt Labour will attack the coalition government over the chief taxman's decision to let Goldman Sachs off around millions of pounds in interest on delayed national insurance payments. It is not clear from the Independent's report, but it was in December last year that Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue & Customs, waived the interest, estimated at £20m. However, there is more detail in the Private Eye expose ("Dave reckoning?", Eye no. 1299) quoted by the Indy. The affair goes back to the start of the Labour government and should have been settled in respect of Goldman Sachs as far back as 2005.

Starting in 1997/98, 22 firms had instituted a scheme to avoid paying national insurance on bankers' bonuses. By 2005, this had been judged to be illegal, and 21 firms had coughed up. Goldman had been allowed to wriggle for another five years. The Eye says: "By the time the bank lost the technical point in a tax tribunal last year, it should have received a national insurance bill for more than £23m plus interest going back 12 years and approaching the same amount again." But there was to be no penalty for having resisted for five more years.

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