British official’s stay in luxury Indian hotel frowned on

Sunday, December 12, 2010

LONDON - A top British tax official’s four-night stay at a luxury Indian hotel cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds, a media report said Sunday.

Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary for Tax at Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), flew business class to Mumbai to participate in a low-key conference largely for Indian accountants and tax officials, Daily Mail reported.

He was even joined on the trip by another senior executive, Melissa Tatton, who is the HMRC’s Deputy Director of Business International.

The pair, who flew to India Dec 1, also met senior Indian tax officials and businessmen during the trip.

They spent four nights in rooms costing more than 200 pounds a night each on the executive floor of the five-star ITC Maratha Hotel in Mumbai, and enjoyed exotic meals in the hotel’s restaurants.

The conference was described by one attendee as “a talking shop for Indian tax accountants”.

Hartnett, 59, whose career hung in the balance in September over his role in a tax fiasco that saw millions of people being landed with unexpected tax demands, delivered a 35-minute speech and sat on a one-hour panel discussion.

The following day, Tatton spoke to the conference for 35 minutes and took part in a one-hour discussion.

They preferred their own company for much of the time, often choosing to dine together rather than take advantage of the free food and drink available at social events put on by the conference organisers, the report said.

However, the presence of Hartnett and Tatton at the Mumbai International Tax Conference, which was sponsored by a tax advisory firm in Mauritius and the governments of the Isle of Man and Jersey, along with big accountancy firms, baffled some participants.

“We were very surprised to see someone as important as Hartnett here”, said one delegate, a Mumbai-based accountant.

In his speech Friday morning, Hartnett, who has also faced controversy after allegedly agreeing to let off telecommunications giant Vodafone from a tax bill amounting to billions of pounds in Britain, told delegates that he believed tax officials should collaborate with big businesses to settle tax disputes.

Filed under: Politics

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