Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Stinking fish!

Like all of us here I am sure, I detest tax evaders, those who fail to declare their taxable income and gains yet enjoy the services that the rest of us pay for in the United Kingdom. HM Revenue & Customs have the moral high ground on this issue, and I applaud their stance in pursuing those individuals who are evading tax and might as well be taking the cash from our own wallets and purses for all the difference it makes in moral terms. Anyway, I hope that my position is clear.

However, we now learn that HMRC has paid £100,000 for information stolen from a bank in Liechtenstein by one of its now former employees. It seems HMRC thinks this is in order because other countries may have done the same. The trouble is that such payments for illicitly come-by data put us all at risk because more employees with an eye to the main chance will look for a quick profit by selling data about any of us, and who is to say that the purchasers will be only the Treasury or other Government bodies here or abroad. I know what HMRC’s own attitude would be if the two missing CDs containing the names, National Insurance numbers and bank account details of Child Tax Credit claimants were sold by one of their employees or indeed any individual.

I believe that if you take the moral high ground to which you are entitled you must avoid moving to the slippery slope where you are not a great deal better than those you wish to catch in your anti-tax evasion net. Receiving stolen property is an offence, isn’t it?

Of course, if HMRC had come across the information without paying for it, we might take a different view. I remember when I was about nine being found in possession of a girly pin-up magazine. “Where did you get that?” asked my mother. I replied truthfully “I found it in a puddle outside the railway station on the way home from school.” Not guilty, as would HMRC have been (in my view) had they been sent the information unsolicited.

As it is, I believe HMRC have let themselves down and the rest of us also. I smell something unpleasant. Is it just me, or do others feel the same way?

© Jon Stow 2008