Last week, Steve Lamey reported pretty unambiguously that HMRC fails to deliver a third of its letters and has to reprocess not far short of half its tax returns. In making both those comments, he gave total numbers, rather than proportions, suggesting at the very least that whatever basis he had for the underlying data – and he did make clear that it hadn’t been easy to track down – was sufficiently robust to scale up to the total.
This week though, it turns out that he was sadly misunderstood, and he has been made to eat a large slice of humble pie. Two interesting things about that.
The first is that this looks as though it is another case of somebody learning the hard way that comments made in the public sector are often amplified further and faster than they may have been used to.
The second is the curious non-rebuttal rebuttal flavour of this particular helping of humble pie. Saying that ‘self-assessment forms are checked and rechecked’, for example, doesn’t necessarily contradict Lamey’s assertion that millions have to be reprocessed, any more than saying that 95% of letters will get through in a year’s time is necessarily inconsistent with a much smaller proportion getting through now.
But presumably, there is a rather good chance that Lamey will now become a much more boring speaker.