In the week when we were all shocked that our personal data was harvested to be used in political campaigns, its good to remind clients that HMRC is also a digital player, which hoovers up useful data on taxpayers where it can.
The revised leaflet on tax investigations conducted under Code of Practice 8 has a new section which says: “HMRC may observe, monitor, record and retain Internet data which is available to anyone. This is known as ‘open source’ material and includes news report Internet sites, Companies House and Land Registry records, blogs and social networking sites where no privacy settings have been applied.”
This, states the obvious that if you make online posts on with a “public” setting, anyone, including HMRC, can read them. This applies to all posts on twitter which are not direct messages, as well as public posts on Facebook and Linkedin.
Although the information gleaned from online sources may not be complete or accurate, HMRC will use it to paint a picture of the taxpayer’s lifestyle, which in turn informs them of the taxpayer’s likely income and wealth.
From 31 January 2018 HMRC has been able to ask the High Court to issue an unexplained wealth order (UWO) where it suspects the individual of being involved in serious crime, including tax evasion, and has an interest in a particular property. An UWO can also be applied to any politically exposed persons who come from a country outside the EEA. The individual who receives the UWO must provide information about the property, such as its legal ownership and the means by which is was obtained.
Written by the Tax Advice Network