After being accused of making “sweetheart” deals with big companies and losing a tax evasion trial against Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp in February, HMRC is to link up with Manchester University to retrain its taxmen.
The joint venture will create a degree in tax, which it is hoped will yield £2m to £3m in extra tax revenues per graduate over four years.
The part-time course, due to be announced on Thursday, can be studied at training centres across the UK. Around 400 HMRC workers are expected to be studying at the “tax academy” by September.
The degree, which will be free for HMRC staff, will include understanding tax returns and more complex matters such as investigating companies that are suspected of evading tax.
Students will also be able to study tax courses up to the equivalent of A-level or a Higher National Certificate, accredited by the Association of Accounting Technicians. Nicole Newbury, head of the HMRC tax academy, told The Telegraph that external accreditation of its tax degree would help give staff “the confidence to take on the best of the private sector tax experts in tax disputes”.
Workers on the degree course will study at college one day a week and every six months the trainees will have to pass a work-based and academic assessment. The course will run over four years.
“Graduates at HMRC are the senior tax investigators of the future, but some of our graduates will be straight out of university and will never have worked a tax case in their life,” Ms Newbury said.
The investment in training comes as HMRC attempts to meet a Treasury target for increasing the amount of tax it collects.
In 2010, George Osborne allocated £917m of funding to HMRC to help tackle the “tax gap” and raise additional revenues of £7bn a year by 2014-15. Around 1,400 HMRC staff are expected to be doing one of three training courses this year.