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Tax staff fired for race discrimination

Seven tax staff have been sacked for racially abusing non-nationals by paying them less child benefit than they were entitled to. Two others left when an investigation was started earlier this year.

They were accused of tampering with computer records, which meant a number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds living in various parts of the UK were paid less than they were entitled to. All who lost out have been reimbursed.

The tax centre is based in Belfast. The investigation started last January after a complaint by somebody who claimed that their records had been changed. A detailed audit was made and the inquiry widened to take in another 16 cases.

Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue and Customs, said the department operates a zero-tolerance policy on racial discrimination.