In the wake of the almighty cock-up of PAYE by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs it has been revealed that the man ultimately responsible, the HMRC permanent secretary for tax, Mr David Hartnett, is something of a serial free-loader when it comes to enjoying corporate hospitality.

According to the Daily Telegraph Hartnett holds the Whitehall record in this regard and has supplemented the meagre £600,000 or so of taxpayer’s money he has trousered in salary over the last three years with 107 acceptances of free food and drink, at such budget venues as the Hilton on Park Lane and the Savoy in the Strand.

This does raise, for our money, important questions about Hartnett, and HMRC.

1. Does he declare his expensive freebies as a benefit in kind, and pay tax on them accordingly?

2. Who entertains him?

3. What do they get for their money?

4. Is there any element of corruption in the process?

5. Will HMRC be reviewing what freebies their staff are allowed to accept, and from whom, in line with the new Bribery Act, which comes into effect next April?

In the interests of transparency of government we really should be told.

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