Saturday, January 26, 2008

Online tax return system considered "too risky" for the famous

[Hat tip: Samizdata and Tim Worstall]

From a report in the Telegraph:

The security of the online computer system used by more than three million people to file tax returns is in doubt after HM Revenue and Customs admitted it was not secure enough to be used by MPs, celebrities and the Royal Family.

Thousands of "high profile" people have been secretly barred from using the online tax return system amid concerns that their confidential details would be put at risk.

From this year, anyone wishing to file a self-assessment tax return after October will have to do so online or face stiff penalties.

However, HMRC has a list of those excluded from the new rules who must send hard copies of returns for "security reasons".

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to use the electronic system to make the Jan 31 deadline this week.

Tax records contain bank details, national insurance numbers, salary and details on investments and savings - all valuable to fraudsters.

On Friday, senior accountants said they had concerns over the security of the system - apparently confirmed by the Revenue's secret policy.

Mike Warburton, of the accountants Grant Thornton, said: "Either the Revenue have a system which can guarantee confidentiality for all or they should defer plans to force online filing. It is extraordinary that MPs and others can enjoy higher security."

Mark Wallace, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "This double standard is unacceptable. If the online system is not secure enough for MPs, why should ordinary taxpayers have to put up with it?"

This is of course the same HMRC who lost 25 million child benefit records. Why should anyone, famous or otherwise, trust these people or their online system to keep their personal data safe?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Happy 2008!

2008 looks as if it could be a crucial year in British politics. The current government's poll ratings have dropped substantially and seems to be beset by problem after problem. If they cannot turn things around they'll be on course to lose the next general election.

Also, in the wake of story after story depicting loss of personal data through incompetence, it looks people are finally waking up to the dangers of the national identity scheme and the other huge surveillance/database schemes the British government has been pursuing over the last decade or so. This development has yet to kill off the national identity scheme however, but if it does so, it will mark a major blow for civil liberties and privacy. Such a development would suggest that the tide is turning against the onslaught on civil liberties and privacy we've been seeing from this government. It's been a long time coming.

2008 is also a crucial year for the US and thus the world, with George W Bush's presidency into its final year and presidential elections being held. Given the US's role as the most powerful country in the world, a change of direction from its government will have an impact on everything from middle east politics to efforts to deal with climate change.

I expect 2008 to be an interesting year.