Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: BERNARD TRAFFORD

TWO things are certain in life, taxes and death. I pay a lot of tax: that reflects my pay grade as a senior professional. I live in a democracy. We elect a government: it sets the taxes. I may dislike the decisions Chancellor George Osborne makes about what proportion of my earnings I should hand over, but I live with them.

I don't complain: really I don't. I believe in the Welfare State and the need to defend ourselves: they can't happen without people paying tax.

But recent news made me furious. A couple of weeks ago it emerged that the National Audit Office had taken HM Revenue and Customs to task for "a lack of rigour" in handling an IT project. Yes, another one of those!

The so-called Aspire IT project was costed at PS4.1bn in 2004. By the time the contract runs out it will have cost some PS10.4b. NAO says that Capgemini and Fujitsu, contractor and subcontractor in the work, have already made a whacking PS1.2b profit - more than double the forecast.

It gets worse. HMRC was supposed to take a share of the profits from that scheme, but government renegotiated in 2012. Instead of the PS71m profit planned, HMRC has taken just PS16m.

The system costs taxpayers PS813m every year: NAO says that's not value for money. Moreover, the deal expires in 2017, so time's short to design and commission its replacement.

You couldn't make it up - and it happens all the time. 100% overspends are commonplace in defence procurement. We proudly watched the Sovereign launch the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier the other week - truly a triumph of engineering. But we still have no aeroplanes to put on it yet. Moreover, while the estimate for the two aircraft carriers was PS3.5b in 2007, the actual cost will exceed PS6.2bn.

I'm not telling you anything new, but brought together such cases make uncomfortable reading. As a taxpayer I'm furious that my tax and national insurance are collected so inefficiently and expensively. I get the annual demand to complete a tax return efficiently, stringent penalties threatened even while the deadline is months off. …

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