One of the criticisms we come in for rather a lot here at HM Revenue and Customs is our apparent failure to pursue tax evaders. I won't attempt to claim that such accusations are not to some degree justified but what people need to understand is that the collection of revenue is an evolving art. And it is precisely because it is an art that we have engaged the services of the celebrated young artist Mr Guy Parker.
Gobbing on a bishop
Many of you, I'm sure, will be familiar with Mr Parker's work - for example, his recent composition Gobbing on a Bishop, which featured him gobbing on a bishop and which earnt him twenty million quid*. Mr Parker, I'm happy to say, has already made a startling impact on our work by changing the colour of our tax returns to a shade which is more 'artistically valid'. He has also remodelled our main offices and mounted a number of 'kinetic installations' in order to create spaces which are capable of effectively channelling creative energies.
You may also note a difference if you receive a visit from any of our staff. Our inspectors have been encouraged to express themselves more freely and have been experimenting with thought-provoking new ways of engaging with tax payers. So far they have incorporated mime, poetry, traditional puppetry and origami into their meetings, and we have been promised some stimulating new projects involving Latvian folk dancing in the coming months.
Reluctance and hostility
Admittedly, some of the businesses and individuals with whom we've been talking have met our approaches with reluctance and hostility. Very shortly Mr Parker will be extending an invitation to these people to join him in a series of 'positivity' sessions where they will get an opportunity to workshop their tax issues and re-evaluate their feelings about payment. The aim is to create a safe, comfortable zone in which they can explore attitudes towards the acquisition of money and express themselves through the medium of rhythmic movement.
We are aware, to be sure, that our fiercest critics are already declaring that our new approach is unsuccessful. Two things: firstly, it's still very early days; secondly, what do we actually mean by 'success'? Certainly, we cannot in all honesty claim to have recovered a significant amount of unpaid tax. What we have done, however, is grown as people. After all, you can't put a price on art, can you? Well, admittedly, Guy Parker does - his daily fee is eye-watering. But honestly, if you'd seen the smile on the face of our deputy director when he had finished his finger painting, you'd have no doubt that it is worth every penny.
Right, any questions?
*Tax free. For tax purposes Mr Parker is registered as an animal sanctuary in the Cayman Islands.