CIT foresees dangers of public access to tax records

Government proposals to allow public access to the VAT Register should prevent commercial exploitation of taxpayers' information, warned the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIT) last week.

And while there appears to be no strong argument for such a move, the government must also consider issues relating to taxpayers' privacy before opening up the registers, said the CIT, whose members include lawyers and accountants.

“It is noted that a number of representations have been received by government requesting the release of non-sensitive information,” said the CIT in a response to recent government consultation.

Such a release would give “organisations who use direct mail sales techniques…an instant mailing list of one million,” said the CIT.

“As there does not seem to be a clearly-focused objective in releasing this information, except presumably to raise additional revenue, great care is required in deciding whether and how that information is to be released.”

The institute said it was “against allowing a commercial organisation to profit from the sale of the information” but added “much of the non-sensitive material…should be released into the public domain”.