Privacy is in question for millions of bank account holders in the UK. The new policy revealed in mid-July gives HRMC the authority to be able to check any bank holder’s account to investigate if the tax amount paid is correct, without the consent of the account holder. This new policy is in question by the critics for invading the basic privacy of the UK citizens.
About HMRC – Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is responsible for tax collection other than taking care of regulatory systems such as the national minimum wages and payment of some state support forms.
It is important to know the tax defaulters but to do so the tax authorities cannot take any shortcuts and access accounts directly. Specially if it invades the privacy policies which were laid so strongly by the UK Government and is expected to be followed across the ministry and judicial system.
Before this order was passed, under the previous law the bank or the HMRC directly could ask the bank account holder the permission to access the financial information. The individual had the authority to deny access and in such cases only a Tribunal had the permission to overrule this. With this new policy this right has been taken away from an individual.
This policy gives HMRC the rights to ask any accountant, lawyer, or bank to share details of any individual for investigation. It also mentions of a limited judicial control on this process.
Candid Money’s Justin Modray who is from the consumer advice group shares his concern over this policy, ‘Anything that gives the taxman more power to dive into your finances is a concern’.
While critics agree that there are people who do not pay tax at the right time or the right amount however for people who are tax payers this policy isn’t the appropriate thing to be forced as HMRC will be accessing their financial details without they even knowing about it.
The HMRC has shared a slightly different take on this news saying they are yet to decide the exact laws around this policy but the new laws will certainly help in safeguarding people’s privacy and their right to know if someone is accessing their financial details while giving HMRC the authority to catch tax defaulters.
June 2018 – HMRC stores voice of users
In another similar news revealed in June this year (2018), it was revealed that HMRC captured and stored voices of UK tax payer without their consent. The civil authorities said this was done for Millions of individuals.
The details revealed that 5.1 M audio signatures where recorded by HMRC to create biometric IDs for the Voice ID scheme launched in 2017. Under this scheme the individual can register through his voice and doesn’t need a passcode separately. All he needs to do is say “ my voice is my password” to create a voice authenticated passcode. The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) mentioned that while it is investigating about this more, individuals who do not want to be part of the Voice ID scheme can simply opt out.
While the UK government boasts of privacy rules and policies, actions taken by HMRC are contradictory and is surely not inline with the privacy policies. We will know better once the actual process gets agreed upon.