HM Revenue & Customs have now been given even more Big Brother style powers allowing its tax inspectors to access information from the UK’s merchant acquirers – the companies that process card payment transactions. In yet another giant stride for the surveillance society, the taxman will now be able to find out the number and value of transactions completed by any specific trader.
In what HMRC describes as “a new crackdown on tax evasion” the UK’s merchant acquirers will have to make information on all credit and debit card payments to UK businesses available to the taxman, for the first time from today. The legislation allows HMRC to obtain data on card payments to all UK businesses for the previous four years. The first requests for the data will be sent to merchant acquirers this week – and from next year this will be an annual request.
No personal data identifying the card owners or their card numbers will be obtained. HMRC’s tax investigators will analyse the data using its sophisticated risk analysis system called Connect – which cross-references and compares the data with what the tax authority already holds: allowing the tax inspectors to check that traders have correctly accounted for all their turnover, and paid all the due taxes. HMRC are highly optimistic that this process will allow it identify tax fraud and tax evasion. HMRC has worked closely with other international tax authorities – many of which have already had great success in collecting more tax by accessing similar data. HMRC estimates that this information could reduce tax fraud by over £50 million a year.
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