U.K. Tax Authority Approaches Barclays Director to Join Board

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By Ben Stupples

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has approached Barclays Plc’s managing director for computer software analytics to join its board, signaling the U.K. tax authority’s aim to be more data-driven.

HMRC’s executive chairman, Edward Troup, met with Elisabetta Osta in July 2017 to discuss a “Data NED role,” according to a Dec. 14 official record of his meetings with external organizations.

In a Dec. 18 email, a spokesman for Barclays told Bloomberg Tax the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “a potential NED role” for Osta. Later that day, a spokesman for HMRC declined to comment via email on whether Osta will join HMRC’s board next year as a non-executive director.

‘More Digital’

After overseeing data analytics and digital development projects, Osta’s experience at London-based Barclays would boost HMRC’s efforts to increase use of technology in the U.K. tax system.

In a Nov. 17 speech at a London tax conference, Troup cited “legacy systems” and the cost of system changes as two factors that have slowed the pace of the U.K.’s digital tax reporting system.

“If, as I have, you’ve seen the Russian or Chinese online digital system in action, you think, ‘Woah. I would love that,’” he said at the Cross Atlantic and European Tax Symposium. Yet HMRC is becoming “more digital and data-driven” despite its legacy issues and extra costs, he added.

Data Mining

Osta was promoted to managing director in 2011, according to her LinkedIn profile. At Barclays, she worked in data mining and network analytics, and launched an app for investment banking clients.

Before joining Barclays in 2008, Osta worked at global consultancy firm McKinsey & Company and dunnhumby, the U.K.-based customer data company behind Tesco Plc’s loyalty card scheme.

Current Board

HMRC currently has non-executive directors on its board, including Rolls Royce Plc chief information officer Simon Ricketts, and former Office of Tax Simplification Tax Director John Whiting.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg Tax, HMRC’s non-executive directors received between 17,500 pounds ($23,414) and 22,500 for their work on average in the financial year ended March 2017. By contrast, Barclays paid its NEDs 130,400 pounds on average for the same period.

Digital by 2020

Two years ago, HMRC announced plans to digitize its tax reporting system by 2020, aiming to reduce paperwork and bureaucracy for taxpayers under its Making Tax Digital scheme.

Small businesses were initially supposed to report digitally each quarter beginning in April 2018, but the government slowed the pace after pushback. Under the new timetable, only businesses with annual revenue of more than 85,000 pounds will have to keep digital records for value-added taxes beginning in 2019. The campaign won’t take effect for other taxes until at least 2020.

Despite the scheme’s delays, Troup highlighted Making Tax Digital at the Nov. 17 conference as a key part of HMRC’s future. Troup will retire from his current role at the end of this month.

“How far can we go in the U.K.? Well, MTD is not real-time information, but it is moving towards a greater proximity between transactions and businesses and the tax authorities,” he said on Making Tax Digital. “It’s an open question to how far it will go, but it is the way forwards,” he added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Stupples in London at bstupples@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Penny Sukhraj at psukhraj@bloombergtax.com

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