Following the widely publicised mass errors uncovered within the PAYE system, three senior executives within HMRC appeared before a Commons select committee.

Chief Executive Dame Lesley Strathie, permanent secretary for tax Dave Hartnett, and director for personal tax, Bernadette Kenny endured probing questions from MPs at Portcullis House on 15 September 2010.

Hartnett had previously refused to make an apology on the issue, saying: “Every country that I know of that has deductions of tax has to do a reconciliation at the end of every year and were’ doing one. I don’t think they [the mistakes) are extraordinary.”

The three HMRC representatives were asked a number of questions during the committee meeting.

This comment was rumoured to have riled Chancellor George Osborne to the extent that an apology then appeared from Hartnett saying: “I am deeply sorry that people are facing an unexpected tax bill.”

The Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie described the apology is “a bit belated.”

The three HMRC representatives were asked a number of questions during the committee meeting. Andrew Love MP asked:” What are you going to to make sure that people understand that they are going to get a more accurate reconciliation?”

Leslie Strathie replied: “Hoping to clear the reconciliation process by 2012. My ambition for the organisation is to have an individual record for every customer and we’ll understand what their code is based on that information.

Then we’ll identifiy those customers who will have taxable changes in the year: e.g. a company car late in the year or taking on a directorship.

There are lots of occasions where people with more complex affairs will need the support of the accountant. We need everyone to understand that PAYE is a payment on account tax and that it should reconcile.”

Ricky Steedman