HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Monday, 20 May 2013

HMRC Database Management

My thanks to a loyal reader who dropped me a note over the weekend concerning HMRC changing her address details (without her permission), and sending her ex husband her tax credit summary for 2012/2013.

She has given me permission to post her email, where she asks for advice.

I have suggested that she writes to her MP and considers contacting the mainstream media.

Please feel free to offer advice, or offer suggestions as to how this could have happened.
"I am absolutely livid with HMRC's incompetent service. Today I received notification from my ex husband that he had received my Tax Credit award summary for April 2012 - April 2013. I separated/divorced him nearly 7 years ago. Up until this point in time I have always received the tax credit awards (and related documents) to my home address. The address at which my ex husband now lives is not one I have ever been associated with. Likewise my ex husband has never been associated with my current address either.

I phoned the HRMC to find an explanation for the clear administration error. The ironic thing is, that in order to speak to someone I had to go through a series of security checks, which included providing 'my' address - however I failed this part of the checks because somehow it now had my ex husbands address! Thankfully the call centre operator changed the address back to mine. She spoke to a manager but neither of them have been able to provide me with an explanation as to why or when the address change was made. They cannot see any record of the change ever being made. Also, why was I not notified of an address change?

I do not want my ex husband knowing what I get paid and how much tax credit I get as it's none of his business. I'm mortified No amount of apology can undo this breech of confidentiality and the fact that he now has that information. 

I'm writing a letter of complaint to HMRC but is there any more I can do? 

Anyone else I can go to?"

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Taxpayer confidentiality for big business Homer tells PAC any times.
    As for the little peeple...

    Thier systems record every keystroke so dont be fobbed off with BS.

    It is a terrible breach of confidentiality between ex spouses they are incompetant at Mupett Towers.

  2. The designatory details (e.g. name, address, date of birth) held on HMRC's main systems come from a mainframe system to which other departments also have access. So a foul-up in one department will have a knock-on effect on the information held by other departments. In my experience, those mistakes are usually the fault of data input by the DWP.

  3. Hello Ken and your 'loyal reader'. Courtesy of H M Revenue and Customs and their usual witless incompetence I can help with some information here. As usual, last quarter I paid my VAT on time through the Faster Payments Service and as usual HMRC issued a penalty notice for late payment. As usual, I wrote and asked them to withdraw the penalty (which they as usual did straightaway without argument) but the (epithet deleted) who dealt with my letter wrote and pointed out that they couldn't talk to me about my own tax as they didn't have the necessary authority on form 64-8! The good news from this everyday story of bungling folk is that he went on in his letter to state that "it is an offence under Section 18 of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 to disclose taxpayer information to a third party without lawful authority to do so" which may be of use to your informant. Having read the legislation, section 19 of the 2005 Act is interesting as it talks about an appropriate punishment for the sort of bungling your loyal reader has experienced which is imprisonment.

    HMRC have (deliberately I think) organised their systems to avoid any particular member of staff having any responsibility for anything. That way they can cock things up endlessly without anyone ever being held to account. My strategy would be (1) write to HMRC and give them 21 days to tell you the name of the person responsible for the apparent offence. I would expect they will be unable or unwilling to do that. (2) I would think you have prima facie evidence of an offence under section 18 as above and I would be inclined to write to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) who deal with serious complaints against Revenue staff as well as against the police and tell them you want to make a formal complaint. Let them find out who was responsible. (3) If you don't get any sense out of them, then go to your MP. In my experience of recent years, writing to your MP is a waste of paper and postage. Nearly thirty years ago I was involved in a case where Revenue Head Office lied to an MP by saying something had been done when it hadn't; the MP went ballistic to say the least and I understand someone at the Revenue was invited to take their talents elsewhere. These days MP's don't even read the letters; they just send them on to HMRC who treat them with exactly the same contempt they have for everything else.

  4. i would pass on the information as above to one of the 'better' newspapers. The Grauniad perhaps who might take it seriously? Good luck and give them hell.

  5. Thanks for the advice/comments:)

  6. Ken,

    I'd suggest your loyal reader write to the Information Commissioners Office as well!

  7. Go to a lawyer for 30 minutes free advice - most of them offer this - on whether you have a legal case for breach of confidence, invasion of privacy or some other civil offence.

    If this behaviour is also a criminal offence the damages might be quite significant. You could give the money to charity if you don't want it but do want an abject apology.