20th August 2018 – Your Data & HMRC

Headlines

  • 2012 HMRC fought off a Cabinet Office proposal that they should be required to share YOUR data with academia and others as BIG DATA would generate huge value.
  • 2018 HM Treasury issue an anonymous paper on the potential value to government of accessing and sharing your data.
  • If you are concerned at the governments attempt at data grabbing, write to your MP, and your tax office, expressing concern.
  • For specific advice please contact us.

Your Data & HMRC – 20th August 2018

Saturday, 4th August was the latest in a series of stiflingly hot weekends in the UK.

Parliament had gone on holiday as had most of the UK, and those who were not, were going to mainly non air-conditioned homes in 30 degrees or more heat.

So, following the civil service procedure adopted by Jo Moorei of a “good day to bury bad news” HM Treasury issued a paper on the economic value of data.

Dated August 2018, and signed by that well known Star Trek character, Data Paper, the paper is a re-hash of the consultation paper issued in the Summer of 2012 on HMRC sharing data with other government departments and academia, extending the role of HMRC’s DataLab (which already shares data on an anonymized basis, but which of course can be de-anonymised by mixing it with other data sets).

HMRC, to their eternal credit, fiercely opposed to any external sharing on the basis that:

  • Keeping personal data private is part of their “contract” with taxpayers
  • If they are seen to breach that contract then their concern (which many of my clients would echo) is that the quality and quantity of information they receive voluntarily, would dry up with the associated increase in risk to revenue collection.

To which I would add that such an action would also cut across the reformed penalty regime introduced in 2008/09 which is designed to promote voluntary disclosure of errors.

An unprompted disclosure can put you in the 0% tax geared penalty category.

The paper is most definitely a consultation paper, it expressly says so, and is also supported by yet another Deloitte consulting paper which uses phrases of “up to £130m”, which of course is meaningless.

This firm’s balance sheet is “up to £130m” as anyone can verify at Companies House.

What should you do?

There are already legal challenges in progress to the UK’s disclosure of beneficial owner regime and automatic information exchange, and the Treasury  paper alludes to basically giving the government free use of our data and sharing of it, without the required protections.

The justification being that there must be huge economic benefits for the government, as there have been in the private sector, it is just no one knows what those benefits could be.

So if you are concerned, write to your MP, ask who commissioned this anonymous paper, and express support for HMRC, and write to HMRC to say you want your data given to them to be kept private by them.

The penalty regime

I am a huge fan of the current HMRC penalty regime and urge full and frank disclosure as early as possible, and if available, prior to a transaction.

This is an excellent way to manage tax risk; if HMRC say No then you are forewarned and have a chance t deal with their concerns.

However, many clients are concerned that having raised their heads above the parapet, HMRC might look in to all other areas in the hope of finding something, and even if there is noting to find the cost of management time and professional fees is not what clients want.

If clients then think that their data is going to be shared far and wide, then my job will become harder and so will HMRC’s.

The paper

Here is a copy of my version of HM Treasury’s “paper” edited for your entertainment.

I commend paragraphs 2.13 and 3.13 to you and such gems as data is not regarded as property, thus ignoring intellectual property at a stroke, and demonstrating the inability to understand the difference between information and property.

And that data will play an important role for businesses – which is good news for Tesco who launched their data gathering Club Card in 1995!

Small print

  • No liability is accepted for reliance by any person upon any statement made in this paper.
  • Section 61(2) Law of Property Act 1925 applies to this paper.
  • i Special Adviser on 11th September 2001, to Stephen Buyers, then the Transport Secretary.


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