If the British think about their tax collectors with anything other than resentment, they imagine them to be a tedious collection of men and women. Hearing of Dave Hartnett, Her Majesty’s permanent secretary for tax, they might picture a fastidious and humourless bureaucrat returning every day to a home counties commuter town.
He would kiss his wife, but not too passionately, engage in an appropriate hobby for a Revenue officer – building a model railway, maintaining the herbaceous border – have one glass of wine with his dinner and go to bed. Newsnight would provide the greatest excitement in his life.
Dave Hartnett’s ominous achievement is to make the Revenue interesting. The record of his socialising with the City institutions he is meant to tax is exhausting in itself. Lunch at BDO Stoy Hayward; drinks reception at Deloitte; dinner at KPMG; a spot of breakfast at JP Morgan Cazenove; followed by yet more backslapping and hail-fellow-well-metting through 107 City breakfasts, lunches and dinners in the space of two years.