Dave Hartnett

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Dave Hartnett
David Anthony Hartnett

(1951-02-25) 25 February 1951 (age 67)
ResidenceSt Albans, Hertfordshire
Alma materBirmingham University
OccupationConsultant, Deloitte
Known forFormer CEO, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
Spouse(s)Aileen Patricia Mary O'Dempsey

David Anthony "Dave" Hartnett CB (born (1951-02-25)25 February 1951) is a former British civil servant who served as the Permanent Secretary for Tax at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) until his retirement in July 2012. Following his retirement he advised HSBC on financial crime governance alongside former Director General of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Bill Hughes.[1]

Early life[edit]

Hartnett studied Classics at Birmingham University, and graduated in 1973.[2]


Hartnett joined the then Inland Revenue in 1976. As a graduate tax inspector, he spent his first 10 years in Birmingham.[2] He advanced to the position of Director of Capital and Savings in 1998.[3] Following the merger of the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise in 2004, he became HMRC's Director General for Customer Contact and Compliance Strategy and then Director General for Business.[3]

He was one of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Revenue and Customs, the formal governing board of HMRC, from the bosrd’s creation in 2005 until his retirement,[4] having previously been a board member of the Inland Revenue.[5] On the Board, he acted as Director General of Policy and Technical.[3]

When Paul Gray resigned as Chairman following the loss of the Child Benefit database, Hartnett took over the post in an acting capacity. After permanent replacements were appointed, Mike Clasper as non-executive Chairman and Lesley Strathie as Chief Executive, Hartnett was appointed to a new post of Second Permanent Secretary for Tax, with responsibility for tax professionalism.[3]

In May 2013, Hartnett became a consultant to the tax firm Deloitte.[6]

Incorrect income tax collection[edit]

In September 2010 Hartnett was widely criticised for refusing to apologise for the HMRC issue which involved millions of people being required to pay due but uncollected tax. It was claimed that HMRC had failed to collect PAYE correctly. He told BBC Radio Four "I'm not sure I need to apologise ...We didn't get it wrong."[7] He later issued an unreserved apology, though no PAYE error had been identified. [8]

Corporate tax avoidance[edit]

For a period after October 2010, protesters blockaded and protested outside Vodafone stores across the UK[9] following allegations of tax evasion of up to £6 billion, illustrated in a series of articles in Private Eye.[10] These articles alleged preferential treatment of Vodafone due to personal connections between Hartnett and John Connors, Vodafone's head of tax, a former colleague at HMRC.

In May 2011 Private Eye alleged Hartnett personally "shook hands" on a deal over a long-running tax avoidance dispute with Goldman Sachs dating back to 2002, without consulting HMRC lawyers, letting the US bank off around £10m in interest.[11] Complaints from HMRC informants that Hartnett personally intervened in settlement cases and agreed to "sweetheart deals" with no explanation or consultation with lawyers have also been published.[12][verification needed] In October 2011, The Guardian published leaked papers regarding the deal.[13]

Hartnett was presented by activists from UK Uncut with a spoof "Golden Handshake award" at a dinner in New College, Oxford honouring his retirement in September 2012. Several activists had donned evening dress and name badges to indicate that they were from Vodafone and Goldman Sachs, and effused over Hartnett's help in saving those companies billions of pounds in taxes. Robert Venables QC, who was at the dinner, first told the intruders to "depart immediately, before we set the dogs on you", before finally ejecting them with the final words "You are trespassing scum. Go".[14][15]

While HMRC boss, Hartnett negotiated a tax deal that granted HSBC’s bankers virtually guaranteed immunity from prosecution for any crimes they might have committed relating to tax fraud in Switzerland.[16] Later in January 2013, he moved on to work at HSBC.[17]

Corporate hospitality[edit]

Hartnett was named by City University London in July 2010 as the most "wined and dined" civil servant in Britain, having been treated to corporate hospitality 107 times over a period of three years.[18]

He stated that his approach to tax disputes with large corporations was "handling disputes in a non-confrontational way and collaborating with customers wherever possible".[19] Harnett claims that this approach secured larger settlements of tax collected faster and more cheaply than if HMRC had taken the taxpayers to court, but this is disputed by Private Eye, who cite particular deals made by Harnett including the arrangement with Vodafone that lost the exchequer approximately £6 Billion.[20]


Hartnett was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 2003 New Year Honours.[21]

Personal life[edit]

In 1977, Hartnett married Aileen Patricia Mary O'Dempsey; the couple have three children.[22] She works as a divorce lawyer, and they live in St Albans, Hertfordshire.[23]


  1. ^ "Ex-tax chief to advise on HSBC crackdown". Telegraph. London. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b "David Hartnett, Former Permanent Secretary for Tax and Commissioner of HMRC Guest Lecture". University of Birmingham. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d "Dave Hartnett CB, Permanent Secretary for Tax". HMRC. Archived from the original on 15 January 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  4. ^ "No. 57613". The London Gazette. 2005-04-14. p. 4843.
  5. ^ "No. 57414". The London Gazette. 2004-09-24. p. 11832.
  6. ^ "Former HMRC boss Dave Hartnett joins tax firm Deloitte". BBC. 28 May 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  7. ^ Wallop, Harry (12 September 2010). "Dave Hartnett fails to win backing of Government over tax fiasco". Telegraph. London. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  8. ^ Brady, Brian (12 September 2010). "Tax chief finally says sorry for PAYE mistakes". Independent. London. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  9. ^ "Protesters blockade Vodafone shops in tax protest". BBC News. 30 October 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  10. ^ "Britain's £6 billion Vodafone bill". Private Eye (1273). 3 September 2010. Archived from the original on 27 October 2010.
  11. ^ "Private Eye 1287". Private Eye (1287). Archived from the original on December 4, 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  12. ^ Shaxson, Nick (2 May 2011). "The curious Dave Hartnett and Goldman's sweetheart tax deal". Treasure Islands Blog. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  13. ^ Leigh, David (11 October 2011). "Goldman Sachs let off paying £10m interest on failed tax avoidance scheme". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  14. ^ Charlie Cooper, "HMRC's former boss honoured ... for services to tax avoidance", The Independent, 25 September 2012
  15. ^ Steven Reid, "Crashing the tax avoidance party", The Guardian, 25 September 2012
  16. ^ https://www.gov.uk/government/news/agreement-with-switzerland-to-secure-billions-in-unpaid-tax
  17. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2270813/Former-UK-tax-chief-Dave-Harnett-lied-MPs-advise-HSBC-bank-honesty.html
  18. ^ Hope, Christopher (17 June 2010). "Whitehall's most wined and dined civil servant is HMRC's Dave Hartnett". Telegraph. London. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  19. ^ Parry, Simon (12 December 2010). "Britain's top tax official enjoys £6,000 four-night stay at luxury hotel in India... to make a 30-MINUTE speech". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  20. ^ "Private Eye 1300". Private Eye (1300). |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  21. ^ "No. 56797". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 2002-13-31. p. 2. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  22. ^ Official Who's Who website (subscription required)
  23. ^ Mendick, Robert (11 September 2010). "The free drinks and dinners of Britain's most senior tax man". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 February 2015.

Offices held[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Paul Gray
Chairman of
HM Revenue & Customs

Succeeded by
Mike Clasper
as Non-executive chairman, HMRC
Succeeded by
Lesley Strathie
as Chief Executive, HMRC
New office Second Permanent Secretary for Tax
HM Revenue & Customs

Succeeded by
Edward Troup