Sunday, 20 April 2014

Taxing times ahead as Revenues and Customs aim to sell on personal data

Plans are currently under consideration that would allow HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) to share personal data about UK taxpayers’ finances with private companies. If this goes through then HMRC could release data to public bodies, researchers or other third party companies and “charging options” are being considered at this moment linked to release of this “anonymous” data. It does seem to be an absolute fallacy that HMRC collect revenue and information from UK taxpayers and then want to get paid for selling on this information, as if the taxpayer is a commodity to be bartered on the open market. In the light of the debacle of the NHS medical records database controversy recently, what is the guarantee of customer care, anonymity and security of information if this does go ahead?

Temporary tax that has lasted 215 years

Out of curiosity I looked into the history of taxation and income tax and was surprised to find that it had been going since 1799. It was introduced as a “temporary” tax in order to pay for the war against the French during the Napoleonic Wars.  At the time it was set at a rate of 10% on the total income of the taxpayer, this was from all sources above £60. The tax was to be collected six times a year and there were reductions on income up to £200 and at the time it raised about £6million to fund the fight against Napoleon. It is still today a temporary tax, which many people might not realise, and it expires each year on April 5th, hence this is the end of the financial year. Parliament have to reapply the tax with an annual Financial Act, and it is this Act, along with other regulations that HMRC have to abide by.

Serious risks to privacy of individual level data?

Concerns have already been voiced about this latest plan from the HMRC, who have been very clear that if this does go ahead, then anonymity is their priority. It was The Guardian newspaper who led with this story and who reported that “charging options” were being looked at by officials. This has given rise to the assumption that firms could pay out to access the data. HMRC have said that they would “only share data if it would generate clear public benefits,” but so far it would seem that the only people to benefit would be HMRC, if they will be charging for this service, and the firms that receive the data.
Would you like to see your personal financial data shared (anonymously) without your consent? Let us know at iRateiSlate – we’re listening!

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