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CIOT unconvinced over HMRC’s ‘open data’ proposals

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The CIOT has expressed reservations over proposals from HMRC to increase the amount of data HMRC puts in the public domain or releases to credit reference agencies (CRAs). The CIOT acknowledges that HMRC operates in an increasingly digital environment, but ‘stresses that taxpayer data clearly falls into the category of personal, rather than open, data. Such information is private, its publication could undermine trust between HMRC and the taxpayer and it is subject to stringent UK and EU legislation.’

CIOT president Stephen Coleclough said: ‘Taxpayers’ records are personal data and must therefore be outside the scope of data sharing. Taxpayer confidentiality, and the avoidance of any potential damage caused by data release, must take precedence over any benefits of  “open data”. These proposals seek to use personal data in an anonymised or aggregated way, but in reality, this is extremely difficult without exposing individuals to identification with their personal data. Indeed, we are concerned at how much detailed information is already published by HMRC ... We support the publication of VAT registration data as it would help customers and enable businesses involved in cross-border transactions to validate their supplier and could help prevent fraud. However, we see no reason for the provision of additional information to CRAs.

‘If these proposals were to proceed in any shape or form, then as a minimum not only should the current criminal sanctions for unauthorised disclosure be extended to anyone who knowingly receives this data, but those sanctions must be enforced and backed by a statutory right to damages’, Coleclough added.

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