No wonder HMRC isn't trusted to sell our ‘anonymised’ data

The taxman’s plan to sell the ‘anonymised’ data of his customers might not be so widely opposed if it wasn’t for a NHS initiative that freelancers might have missed called, writes Clare Rickman of InTouch Accounting.

That’s because the initiative, which provided medical information to third parties, has been unceremoniously shelved amid fears that people could be identified from the so-called ‘anonymised’ data being supplied.

Little wonder, then, that there are now calls for a mandatory ‘opt-in’ to the data-sharing and extraction programme, which is based on details stored in patients’ medical records. That means everything from NHS numbers right up to dates of birth and postcodes would be in transit.

It therefore seems surprising that HM Revenue & Customs is still forging ahead with its own similar scheme, which David Davis, a former shadow home secretary no less, has condemned as “borderline insane.”

In fact, HMRC has already started a pilot under which VAT registration data is provided to credit reference agencies, but it could go even further if plans outlined in the 2014 Budget get the all-clear.

The plans would allow data contained in the VAT register, along with data held in relation to an individual’s personal tax position, to be sold to third parties, such as researchers and public bodies.

HMRC has not stated what data they will share but critics, no doubt mindful of, are rightly concerned it could include information about tax payment history, income, and other arrangements which could then enable people to be identified. HMRC don’t have a great track record when it comes to looking after taxpayer information as it is, so such concern is justified.

These new plans are being overseen by David Gauke, Treasury Minister, and fortunately are not yet final.I use the word ‘fortunately’ because the public have not at any stage given their consent to their data being shared – let alone sold.

If HMRC wants to raise more money then perhaps they should instead concentrate on collecting the correct tax from everyone. Bernie Ecclestone and his recently discovered ‘sweetheart deal’ that avoided around £1bn of UK tax may be a good place to start.

Jun 5, 2014
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