Are tax records supposed to be secret or not?

Ministers believe the current system is too reliant on parents declaring their true earnings voluntarily. Under the reform plans, child support officers will check the incomes of absent parents against their tax records to make it more difficult for them to lie about their earnings.

Anyone know? Is this a breach in the privacy wall or something that goes on all the time anyway?

11 comments on “Are tax records supposed to be secret or not?

  1. So they are working on the assumption that some people who are happy to lie to the Child Support people will draw the line at lying to the Inland Revenue?

    I can see the logic of this. The problem with assuming everyone is a lying toe-rag and treating them as a lying toe-rag is pretty soon everyone becomes a lying toe-rag. I feel a strong and sudden desire to cheat on my taxes.

  2. Once upon a time, there were child allowances that increased one’s tax-free allowances. Most families with children obtained some benefit from this, for the (additional) costs of raising children.

    Then someone in government decided that, in some families, the wage earners (mainly men) were blowing too much on beer and ciggies and not giving their wives enough housekeeping. Accordingly, child allowances were separated from Income Tax and were paid directly to the women of the household. [Of course, in addition, the allowances were changed to provide more wealth transfer from the better off to the less well off.]

    In those old days, there was no privacy issue as it was all handled by the Inland Revenue (now HMRC).

    Then, what we gained was more government, more bureaucracy and more spent on administering a system to allow it to creep one step nearer to ‘perfection’.

    It is time we went back to a scheme where the vast majority of households received support for the extra expenditure (of more people to support) through direct taxation of their income: ie the reintroduction of child allowances against income tax (and National Insurance, until such time as it is phased out). This will make everything much easier and cheaper to implement.

    Then, for the small number of households with both children and very low incomes, special arrangements can be made. These will necessarily be at a higher relative cost (compared to the ‘support’ received), but the overall cost of the whole system will be lower.

    All the government needs to acknowledge is that, in the vast majority of cases, families are best left to manage their own internal affairs. Government does not need to micromanage the internals of every family.

    And then the privacy issue goes away, in a significant majority of cases.

    Best regards

  3. Hmm. Data protection rules apparently don’t allow the child tax credit people to access tax records in order to assess benefit claims, which is why we have to fill in a claim form to provide them with information that we have already provided to the tax people. So it’s difficult to see how the child support people can have access to those records either. Maybe ministers don’t know this?

  4. “So they are working on the assumption that some people who are happy to lie to the Child Support people will draw the line at lying to the Inland Revenue?”

    PAYE makes this quite hard for an awful lot of people. And there is going to be a load of historic data which I’m sure will be very useful.

  5. You should be more like Sweden (or Finland, or Denmark). A fixed child benefit, paid out for every child, regardless of the income of the family. Very little bureaucracy.

  6. Sticking with the Nordic examples, in Norway everyone’s tax records are made public by default. Not only can different government departments check up on you, but so can your neighbour. Living in Norway is, I’m reliably informed, a constant nightmare.

  7. pjt, this isn’t about child benefit payed by the government. It’s about maintenance payments, paid by divorced fathers to their ex-wives (supposedly to support their children), but enforced by the State.

  8. I have a vague memory of a government protocol on when and in what circumstances information can be passed from one government department to another.

  9. Drip, drip, drip. There go our liberties. Choose one from the following: 1.) If you are doing nothing wrong, why does it matter or, 2.)It’s for the greater good or, 3.) All absent fathers are scallies, so treat them all as criminals.
    Not much different from keeping DNA of innocent people on record…

  10. Is this a breach in the privacy wall or something that goes on all the time anyway?

    As someone who has felt the intervening hand of the CSA, I would say that this already goes on indirectly.

    If you are self-employed you are required to provide your accounts verified by a Chartered accountant. I suppose some accountants might provide differing accounts on request; mine wouldn’t have, certainly not on for what I was paying him.

    If you’re on PAYE the CSA can order your employers to deduct the amount assessed that you owe and compel them to pay it directly to them. You are required to prove your wage level with payslips and P60s. They make you tell them what you know another government department knows about you. And then they make your boss a conniving enemy.

    So they are working on the assumption that some people who are happy to lie to the Child Support people will draw the line at lying to the Inland Revenue?

    There’s no point lying to either of them once the CSA are involved. After all, they have a key witness who has just turned State’s evidence. They will be aware of all internet traditions.

    The only way to survive the CSA is to re-order your affairs in light of their rules and powers. Those on benefits or low income have their ‘contributions’ capped. Low income does not include share dividends or investments, only wage income. If you’re well paid and on PAYE, you are fucked.

    It is a delicious irony that a government agency designed to deter the feckless, feral underclass from reproducing so wantonly, ends up using its teeth most ferociously on the affluent middle class male who can’t help but play by the rules.

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