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Revenue staff to strike on Monday
More than 55,000 revenue staff are set to strike on Monday 25 June over massive cuts that will seriously undermine any efforts to clamp down on the kind of tax avoidance schemes used by comedian Jimmy Carr, the Public and Commercial Services union says.
The industrial action in all HM Revenue and Customs offices in the UK is over the government's plan to axe a further 10,000 HMRC jobs, on top of 30,000 that have gone since the department was formed in 2005.
It will mean face to face tax offices will be closed and calls to telephone enquiry lines will go unanswered.
In response to reports about Jimmy Carr's use of the 'K2' scheme to avoid paying income tax on earnings, prime minister David Cameron yesterday described tax avoidance as "morally wrong".
The union, which represents more than three-quarters of HMRC staff, says that as well as 'wringing their hands' about the morality of tax avoidance, ministers have the power to do something about it, starting with an immediate halt to the job cuts.
An estimated £120 billion is lost every year because of tax evasion and avoidance - largely by very wealthy individuals and organisations - and because the department does not have sufficient resources to collect what is owed.
Last month MPs on the public accounts committee said job cuts had prevented HMRC from collecting an additional £1.1 billion in tax, with committee chair Margaret Hodge saying: "The department must consider whether further staff cuts will deliver value for money for the taxpayer."
The strike is also in opposition to creeping privatisation in HMRC, as the department is currently spending £4 million on a year-long trial using two private companies to handle tax credit enquiries.
It will be followed by ongoing industrial action short of a strike, meaning staff refusing to do overtime because it is used to mask the effect of staffing cuts.