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On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off - This week: the taxman

Few people are in love with the taxman, for obvious reasons. But generally he is on the side of the angels, fighting for the greater good of the nation.

Risking the wrath of builders, freelance journalists and textile tycoons, the UK's tax inspectors work hard to rake in vital cash to pay for midwives, schools and libraries, for example.

But this time, it seems, the bureaucrats at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs have taken it too far: it emerged last week that the training restaurant at Brockenhurst College in Hampshire had been overpaying tax for years.

Officials had said that the restaurant, MJ's, was liable to pay full VAT on its haute cuisine offerings, despite the fact that it charged heavily discounted prices and made no profit, and was run largely for the benefit of catering students learning how to whip up a souffle, whisk a meringue and spatchcock a chicken - in short, despite the fact that it was effectively a classroom and should have had no dealings with the taxman. Goodness, what would Jamie Oliver say?

Fortunately, when the college took HMRC to a tribunal it successfully won back #163;55,000 in overpaid taxes. It's a victory for catering education and a victory for the thrice-baked cheesecake in a raspberry coulis.

So, get your penny-grabbing bottom on the naughty step, HMRC, and stop picking on students in chef's whites.

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