GDS founder part of crack team brought in to advise Labour on HMRC modernisation

The Labour party has assembled a team of big names – including a former permanent secretary and PAC chair – to advise on issues including digital transformation, legacy systems, and legislative change

The founder of the Government Digital Service and a former permanent secretary is among a panel of experts Labour has appointed to advise on its plans to “modernise” HM Revenue and Customs and improve tax compliance.

Mike Bracken, former the founding head of GDS will sit on the advisory panel alongside Sir Edward Troup, who was a special adviser to then-chancellor Ken Clarke in the 1990s, before serving HMRC as executive chair and permanent secretary from 2016-2017.

The duo will joined by Labour MP and former Public Accounts Committee chair Dame Margaret Hodge, and Bill Dodwell, former tax director of the Office for Tax Simplification.

Chaired by shadow financial secretary James Murray, the panel will advise on Labour’s plans for the tax agency, including plans to improve customer service, digitise more of its services and replace legacy IT systems. It will also look at strategic and operational issues standing in the way of increasing tax compliance and any potential legislative changes to HMRC’s powers and penalties.

The experts will advise on the future of key programmes including the Single Customer Account and Making Tax Digital. Recently, MPs on PAC have been pushing HMRC for answers on how it will address flaws in the flagship MTD programme, which has suffered several cost and budget overruns.

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Murray said: “I am grateful to the panel for agreeing to support us with this incredibly important piece of work. I am looking forward to working with them over the coming months as we prepare Labour’s plans for government if we win the next general election.”

Bracken, who founded the consultancy Public Digital after leaving government in 2015, said: “Better public services require an efficient, modern tax system. The opportunity to help improve tax collection is better for the country, and for the improved working of the state as a whole.  I’m delighted that with this announcement the Labour Party is showing that it is serious about implementing much-needed reform, ensuring HMRC is ready to grasp the opportunities of digitisation and the internet era. Working with this brilliant panel is a golden opportunity to develop policies which will make our tax system fairer, more effective, and easier for all of us to use.”

The announcement comes after shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said a Labour government would grow HMRC by 5,000 staff over the course of a parliament to enable a crackdown on tax avoidance. The plans aim to raise £5bn a year by 2029-30, which would fund spending pledges on the NHS and school breakfast clubs.

Beckie Smith

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