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back to article Draft law lets council bods snoop your tax records

The Local Government Finance Bill, now before Parliament, is drafted in such a way that it could permit the routine disclosure of tax records and other personal data held by HMRC to council officers for several council tax-related purposes. The powers also allow HMRC to disclose such details directly to contractors of the …

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Just abolish council tax and add to general taxation, fair and simple right?

And also removes this problem of data sharing.

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The problem with this

is that it breaks the link between where you live, what sort of house you live in, and what you pay.

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Pirate

Quite agree,

and same for the TV Licence.

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Re: The problem with this

What sort of house you live in is, or should be, irrelevant. It is used as a proxy for ability to pay but income is what really matters. If I'm a high earner living in a one bed flat then I could be paying much less than an OAP whose only income is a state pension but whose mortgage on a two bed house is paid off. If both examples are in good health and living alone then their use of local services will be likely to be about the same. Council Tax was just a return to the old rates system after the failure of the even more draconian Poll Tax.

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Anonymous Coward

Or even simpler, abolish income tax, employees' national insurance, and employers' national insurance; and just hike the council tax to fill the gap.

That's how it works in Texas: no state income tax (ok there's still federal) and massive property taxes (sometimes tens of thousands of dollars per year). That's also how it works in Hong Kong, where there's no income tax under HK$100,000. Tax returns are incredibly simple as a result.

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Seems to work OK in Éire; a pleasant surprise when I moved there (and a nasty shock when I moved back to the UK).

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Anonymous Coward

America's local TAX system would be the model your looking at. Not ideal but certainly offords more fairness on many levels. Personaly a combination of the two. Though we still have a country with not everybody on a water meter - when we see people rush to all get them, then and only then are the people ready for change.

Sad isn't it.

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Stop

US != UK

part of the mess we're in, has arisen from trying to ape the US, when it's totally inappropriate. The US has grown up in stages, and is a sodding big place. That's why they have many different energy companies, telephone companies, water companies. It was bonkers to try and make the UK "like" the US by artificially splittng up utilities ... because - guess what ? - they've discovered it's more efficient to merge and share their costs (no good for the consumer). In my defence I present the story of cable TV. Exactly how many competing companies are there now ?

Similarly, how would "local taxes" work ? Because I can easily choose to shop in any one of 4 counties, 3 cities and 5 towns with no real overhead in fuel. Obviously I would gravitate to the cheapest. (Assuming you are talking sales tax). If you are talking an income tax - it will never happen. You don't think the rich are going to pay any more do you ?

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Anonymous Coward

I once had a letter from the private housing director of the council telling me my house was selected to be visited by them to assess the needs of private housing in the city where I live. Quote,' you will be required to allow the inspector access, he will take photographs of all the rooms and external views and garden. You do not need to make an appointment we will call at a convenient time to suit you.'

I phoned them and asked if the inspector was CRB checked as I have small children in the house. They replied he was from a reputable firm of surveyors. I think my choice of words was over my dead body to which she replied, we will take you off the list then.

Allowing legislation like this leaves us all open to abuse.

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Re: Quite agree, - NOT!

I see rampant abuse of this coming, just as other measures have been abused.

The current council tax is nonsense, it does not represent cost properly, so lots of people over pay for frankly poor value and archaic services, politically correct wasteful 'social projects', support for parasites like welfare immigrants, and even oxymoron 'charity donations'. The size of property and location, thus flawed implied salary, can be poor indicators of consumption of services, so why not cost and charge the expected/measured consumption of services like private energy/water providers do, and have strict & simple rules for all discounts or allowances.

I stopped watching that brainwashing, stupefying drivel on TV, especially from the BBC, so regularly and quite lawfully shred the GIGO junk mail from the TV unmentionables. Better to revoke and never renew the BBC charter because the terms of the BBC charter are in tatters (e.g. overt political funding from EU and US state) and its role as a state protected organisation was frankly obsolete and obscene years ago! FU any who say the BBC should be overtly funded by taxation from this bankrupt government; onerous debt I say on all the states' quasi-private ventures and all the other "Baby Boomers" ticking debt bombs!

IMO all forms of Income Tax are completely unfair and wrong, including all the absurd attempts with council tax, so all should be replaced by consumption taxes and service charges; ironically this may actually be fairer for the less well off and provide desperately needed discipline for the state and local government!

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Anonymous Coward

Publish it all

Just make it all public. Then everyone knows what you say you earn and can either dob you in to HMRC/ slash the tires on your jagt/ take you to the cleaners in the divorce court as appropriate.

Isn't this how it works in some Nordic countries? I really don't see why we don't make it public - if you are squeamish about it it's probably through guilt at your success in the recycled rope business.

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Anonymous Coward

And what about DCAs?

My understanding may be off, but could it reads as though Debt Collection Agencies as contractors can also be handed your HMRC records if collecting CT arrears?

The majority of DCAs I have come into contact with have been nothing more than bullies who use fear and intimidation tactics on the basis that the majority of people do not know their rights. (Unluckily for them I do and I refuse to deal with them and will only ever deal with creditors directly.)

To arm them with more information just gives them yet more ammunition with which to bully vulnerable people. #EPICFAIL

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Re: And what about DCAs?

Councils don't use DCAs to enforce council tax payment - they can however use bailiffs who *do* have powers. It may be that should the warrant expire that the council throws the debt at a DCA (I don't know any that do, but there are a lot of councils), but you'd have to avoid the bailiffs for a year before that which seems like an awful lot of hassle for a long time.

My understanding is that bailiffs would likely be able to access the info as they are carrying out a legally prescribed activity that is directly related to the *collection* of council tax.

The matter of DCAs is a little more complex - if the debt is sold to the DCA as happens with private debts (mobile phone contracts etc) then no, they can't access the data as they are collecting their own private debt. If they are acting as an agent for the council then it's possible. Acting as an agent would require a proper contract for services though, involving the 'mare that is public sector procurement so it would be *very* unlikely.

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Re: And what about DCAs?

Actually you are mistaken. I battled with my Council last financial year because they weren't charging me the correct amount of council tax and passed the matter on to a certain DCA who then tried unsuccessfully to use a baliff to enforce payment (through a Baliff company they owned and operated). The debt was not sold to the DCA.

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Fairly easy to see why this has come about

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/nov/26/one-hyde-park-council-tax

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Dear Lord

Dear Lord, that article has some *terrible* statements in it designed to make ppl think "oh noes my dataz are gonna be shared!!!11!!!" rather than actually deal with the facts. The worst bit is

"Also note that the word “relate” is unqualified, so “purposes relating to council tax” could easily extend to any council purpose that depends on the collection of council tax; in this way many council functions become arguably related to council tax."

The Bill doesn't say "purposes relating to council tax". It says "PRESCRIBED purposes relating to council tax". That's a HUGE ****ing difference. For those too lazy to read, "prescribed" is defined by the LGFA 1992 as being "prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State" so HMRC/councils can't just get the info as they please - it must be for reasons specified in (secondary) legislation.

The authors take on the meaning given to "relate" is almost equally as **** poor. I wouldn't mind so much if they were actually retarded, but clearly they are just stoking a fire. Where a term isn't explicitly defined in legislation there is a very clear method by which an objective meaning is determined. At the end of the day it will be the courts not HMRC, councils, or anyone else that determine the scope of "related", and it won't be terribly wide (the courts will give the narrowest interpretation they can to it, whilst maintaining the intention of Parliament).

It's good to report on changes to the law and how it could affect people, but please God try to get beyond the red banner at the top of the page when deciding what to write...

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Re: Dear Lord

Leaving aside your tone, which tends to detract from what you are saying, you make some good points. One you missed, but will equally be fatal to a decision the first time it comes up for judicial review, is "“Regulations under this paragraph must not be made except with the consent of the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs”. This will be regarded by the Court as a "fettering of discretion", i.e. the minister is being dictated to by someone that does not actually have the power to do so. This is constitutionally impossible, and therefore trumps the statute.

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Codes instead of detailed numbers

THE tax department has no need to release numbers; they could simply assign a code that would signify what a persons status is.

Too much information is filtering down to councils, who are the east trustworthy level of government.

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15D

original article misses out 15D from the Act. The preceding 15C makes it an offence to disclose information received (etc), but - incredibly - 15D provides a defence for a council employee "D":

If "D believed that D was making the disclosure in question with lawful authority" then they have an out for an otherwise unlawful disclosure. So from now on, every single council employee is going to believe that all provided data was left on a train with lawful authority. They don't have to provide proof that they diligently and successfully sought proof that the prior disclosure was entirely lawful, simply belief.

Then they can pass on the information to anyone in their local without fear.

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