Americans get access to UK tax records

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The Independent Online
The Government has gone back on promises never to send confidential tax records abroad because of fears that a pounds 200m self-assessment computer system will crash.

Labour is demanding assurances that taxpayers' private information will be safeguarded, but ministers have already decided that the privatised system will be accessed by telephone from sites in the United States and Australia.

The disclosure is made in today's issue of Computer Weekly. It has been passed a copy of a secret Inland Revenue memo to an unnamed minister, thought to have been Michael Jack, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, advising him that sending information abroad represents a fundamental change in the Inland Revenue's security policy and procedures. It asks for permission to revise its security policy and its contract with the main contractor, the US information technology company EDS, and suggests planting a Parliamentary question that would allow the changes to be announced.

Last week, a question was asked of Mr Jack who said EDS would have 24 hour support from its US sub-contractor, Oracle. He said this would "necessitate specialist staff either in the UK, or exceptionally, at Oracle facilities abroad, having access to copies of batches of taxpayers' records".