James Moore: Owe the taxman £2.76? You'd better meet him at The Ivy to chew it over

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The Independent Online


Dear Taxpayer,

We notice that your account is still in arrears and that you owe the sum of £2.76.

We have been asked by the Government to extend the same concessions to individuals and small businesses as we have extended to large businesses when it comes to settling outstanding tax bills. As such we are willing to offer you the opportunity to meet with us to discuss your debt of £2.76 prior to the commencement of enforcement action.

After agreeing a mutually convenient time the venue is left to your discretion. However, we have found that London restaurants contain all the necessary facilities to expedite a negotiation and we recommend that you select one and reserve a table before communicating it to us.

The tax treatment of such a meeting has been raised with us. It has been common practice to restrict the expenditure on food and drink to £30 per head, higher amounts being considered to be benefits in kind. However, as we can be absolutely sure that your meeting is intended for business, we are willing to waive this stipulation on this occasion only.

We should note that the waiver is conditional upon the quality of the refreshments being acceptable. As such we would recommend that you consider the purchase of a copy of Harden's Restaurant Guide before deciding upon a venue. The selection of one of its top 20 restaurants would be considered acceptable. We are aware that the guide produces top 20s based upon a number of categories such as cost, service, location etc. The top 20 you should use on this occasion should be the list referring to quality.

Whilst we are unable to provide a list of recommended venues, our staff have found that the Ivy has proved to be adequate for discussions during the middle of the working day. For those allocated an earlier time slot, the Wolseley is also acceptable while Petrus has been found by our inspectors to be suitable for evening discussions.

While there has been much unfortunate publicity attached to the settlements achieved with some of our larger customers, we should note that we are not able to guarantee a favourable outcome to anyone from such meetings.

However, we have been asked to make it clear to you that we are prepared to listen to all customers who are willing to make the effort to meet with us at an appropriate time and venue.

In the meantime we should warn you that until your account is settled we shall apply interest to the outstanding amount of £2.76 at a rate of 5 per cent above the Bank of England base rates. Should it turn out that we in fact owe you £2.76 we shall of course credit your account with interest. The rate will be base rates less 5 per cent.

If you choose not to take up this offer or to settle the account we shall of course engage bailiffs to seek redress by auctioning off your property. Any sums realised over and above the level of the debt will be held for you in an account with interest payable at base rates less 5 per cent.

Yours sincerely, HM Revenue & Customs