Belfast Telegraph

And who said the taxman was Scrooge?

By Jane Graham

It's always good in these austere times to read a Christmas story about the usually unforgiving representatives of officialdom putting the rulebook aside for once.

Whose heart could have been left ungladdened by this week's revelation that HM Revenue and Customs have written off £25bn worth of taxes owed by some of the biggest, richest companies in the UK? It's the stuff of Charles Dickens!

We're so used to the old cliché of the grim-faced, unyielding tax inspector sending out demands and threats to struggling families, refusing to engage with the details of their lives and the reasons for their tardiness in paying their dues. But now we know these guys actually have a 'cosy' relationship with some British workers and regularly agree to cut their bills or let them off from paying interest. This is the human face of tax inspection, and what a relief for scared, hard-pressed small businessmen and women to see it.

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