HMRC 'plans to share tax data with private firms'

 
HM Revenue & Customs logo HMRC says further consultation on the plans will take place

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Taxpayers' personal data could be shared with private firms under plans drawn up by Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

If given the go-ahead it would allow HMRC to release anonymous tax data to third parties including companies, researchers and public bodies.

But former Conservative minister David Davis told the Guardian the plans were "borderline insane".

An HMRC spokesman said "no final decisions" had been taken, and it was committed to "confidentiality".

'Defies logic'

The newspaper reported that "charging options" were being examined by officials, suggesting that firms could pay to access the data.

But concern has been raised over the plans in the wake of the Care.data initiative - a proposed anonymous sharing of NHS medical records - which is currently suspended after fears were raised as to exactly what information would remain anonymous.

Start Quote

You would have hoped HMRC would have learned that trying to sneak plans like this under the radar is not the way to build trust or develop good policy”

End Quote Emma Carr Big Brother Watch

Plans to relax the laws around HMRC data-sharing - which are being overseen by Treasury minister David Gauke - were first consulted on in July last year, but HMRC said "further consultations" would also be taking place.

Mr Davis told the Guardian: "The officials who drew this up clearly have no idea of the risks to data in an electronic age.

"Our forefathers put these checks and balances in place when the information was kept in cardboard files, and data was therefore difficult to appropriate and misuse.

"It defies logic that we would remove those restraints at a time when data can be collected by the gigabyte, processed in milliseconds and transported around the world almost instantaneously."

Emma Carr, deputy director of civil rights campaign group, Big Brother Watch, said: "The ongoing claims about anonymous data overlook the serious risks to privacy of individual level data being vulnerable to re-identification.

"Given the huge uproar about similar plans for medical records, you would have hoped HMRC would have learned that trying to sneak plans like this under the radar is not the way to build trust or develop good policy."

'Unlawful disclosure'

A HMRC spokesman said: "HMRC would only share data where this would generate clear public benefits, and where there are robust safeguards in place.

"Last year's consultation made it very clear that there would be a rigorous accreditation process for anyone wanting access to the data and that any access would take place in a secure environment.

"Those accessing data would be subject to the same confidentiality provisions as HMRC staff, including a criminal sanction for unlawful disclosure of taxpayer information."

 

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  • rate this
    +87

    Comment number 560.

    As previously stated, this information is not their's to share. It has been not been given freely, it has been provided to comply with legal obligations.

    Surely the HMRC would be required to seek our permission to reveal this data, permission I would not give.

  • rate this
    +37

    Comment number 349.

    I rather think that HMRC should be prioritising catching tax cheats and closing loopholes that the big corporate tax cheats and non-doms use, rather than this idiotic scheme. That would be far more beneficial to the nation

    Not that I can see any of the newspapers being keen on that, though...

  • rate this
    +39

    Comment number 312.

    We have an obligation to provide HMRC with accurate information. They should not then in turn sell access to that same information to third parties with commercial interests.

    .... in exactly the same way that insurance companies should be stopped from selling your details to ambulance chasing legal firms after an accident.

  • rate this
    +45

    Comment number 309.

    As the HMRC has not asked me for my approval of giving out my information, I DO NOT WANT ANY INFORMATION RELATING TO ME TO BE GIVEN OR SOLD TO OTHER PARTIES.

    On another note, are they going to pay the individual when information is given out?
    Somehow I don't think they will.
    If they want more revenue, start by catching those who cheat the system.

  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 73.

    This government is desperate for money and ideas, it has proven there is still life in the 19th century adage 'the political classes would sell their own grandmothers for a shilling'.

 

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