Taxman in latest “big brother” move

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HMRC is widening its surveillance operation once more as it continues its war on the “hidden economy.”

This latest move by the Revenue will see the taxman granted additional powers to gather information from business intermediaries and electronic payment providers. It hopes that the initiative will stop organisations and individuals evading tax by failing to register a source of income.

HMRC estimates that this “hidden economy” deprived the Treasury of £5.9 billion in 2012-13. This equates to 17% of the total tax gap.

What data will be accessed?

HMRC will first seek to gain access to information held by electronic payment providers. These businesses handle monetary transactions that are not necessarily related to credit and debit card purchases.

Such transactions are increasingly taking place online and take different digital forms.

In addition, the Revenue will extract data from so-called business intermediaries. These range from app stores to booking and reservation platforms.

The news is just the latest attempt by HMRC to secure more data on individuals. Earlier this month, we reported that the Revenue’s Connect system has given the taxman access to 30 different databases.

In addition, HMRC has resorted to monitoring the activity of those who use online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, while also spying on individuals’ social media accounts.

Have your say

How do you feel about HMRC’s new data-gathering powers? Do you think they are necessary to fight tax avoidance? What would you do to solve the problem? Join in the discussion on Twitter, or leave a comment below.