Edward Troup's HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has been a
political football in 2014. The UK tax authority has faced
criticism – not all of it fair – from the
opposition Labour party for being too soft, from taxpayers and
advisers for being too harsh, and, amid the criticism, has been
given the power to access bank accounts and seize assets by UK
Chancellor George Osborne.
|Edward Troup is
a new entry this year
Despite receiving a £900m reprieve in 2011, it has
suffered sustained spending cuts from the last two governments
including a 16.5% real-terms cut from 2010-2015, with its
staffing levels taking hits in terms of both numbers and
Before taking on the Tax Assurance Commissioner role in
2012, Troup most recently worked as a Director General for HM
Treasury, and he has experience as an adviser to the Chancellor
of the Exchequer.
However his career was forged in the private sector as a
partner at Simmons & Simmons, where he worked from the
early 1980s to 2004 apart from during a spell as a special
adviser to the Treasury between 1995 and 1997.
It is, in part, this past which attracts much of the
criticism HMRC is open to – that it is too cosy with
taxpayers due to many of its staff and directors having worked
in accountancy firms and large corporations, where their
interests would have been posed against that of the revenue
authority. In 1999, Troup wrote for the Financial
Times that taxation was "legalised extortion".
However, as HMRC has come under greater pressure from above
to collect more revenue to plug the UK's budget deficit, there
is a sense among advisers that it has become less friendly
towards taxpayers than it had been in 2013.
With the Public Accounts Committee, led by Global Tax 50
2013 entrant Margaret Hodge, hounding it from the other side
and pressing it to do more to tackle aggressive avoidance
techniques, the authority is essentially in a no-win situation,
stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Aside from tackling multinational tax avoidance, a big theme
in UK tax policy during 2014 was devolution. The momentum
provided by Global Tax 50 2014 entrant Alex Salmond as he
fought for Scottish independence from the rest of the UK led to
talks on devolution not just of Scottish taxing powers, but
also of similar powers in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Troup has been an important figure in these discussions
regarding the devolution of taxing powers from Westminster to
Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and possibly even London, and
will continue to play a key role as discussions continue into