The friendly face of the tax office gets a royal honour

Khama Shore OBE
Khama Shore OBE

SHE came to Britain from Africa in 1973 with £1,000 and hopes of building a new life.

And now Kshama Shore’s dedication and hard work have earned her an honour from the Queen.

Kshama has been made an OBE in recognition of her tireless and effective efforts to get people to pay their taxes - and the 58-year-old reacted to the news with a degree of shock.

She said: “I’m so proud, but so surprised. I feel I’ve got it just for doing my job.”

Kshama lives in Monarch Close, Rugby, with her husband Iain, but works for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in London - from where she oversees 15 offices around the country.

She said: “I know I’m not going to win any awards for popularity doing the job I do, but we try to be professional, understanding, compassionate and fair.

“We’ve been a lot busier in the past few years - people can’t keep on top of everything, and tax is often at the bottom of the queue. About 95 per cent of people pay their taxes on time - for the rest, we try to be helpful and encouraging, but you have to get the right balance between carrots and sticks. And the government can do nothing unless people pay their taxes.”

Born in Arusha, Tanganyika - now Tanzania - to parents of Indian origin who ran a trading post near the Serengeti, Kshama moved with her family to Coventry in 1973 as an economic migrant. She started looking for work immediately and registered with the Department for Employment. It told of her a vacancy at the city’s VAT office.

Kshama said: “I was very green - it was my first interview and my first job. I didn’t really know what I was joining.”

Having worked up the ranks from the lowest grade to her current position as assistant director of HMRC’s corporation tax operations, Kshama has survived mergers, cutbacks and reorganisations. She said: In some ways, if you’re any good and you want to stay, there’s always a place for you. You have to be flexible in your approach - there are people who don’t want to move desks, let alone offices. It’s not always been easy, but I’ve enjoyed it immensely and have worked with some great bosses. And not having children means I’ve been able to be more flexible.”

Kshama, whose hobbies include photography and walking, has also had to overcome racist attitudes during her 38-year career.

She said: “You take it all with a pinch of salt, you deal with it and move on. And for every person who’s unpleasant, there are 25 who are nice.”

A trip to Buckingham Palace to receive the honour formally awaits Kshama in the next six months. She said: “My mum is so excited for me!”