HMRC To Use ‘Web Robots’ To Hunt Down Tax Cheats

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is extending its campaign against tax cheats with the news that it will use ‘web robots’ to trawl cyberspace.

The announcement from the HMRC says that it will utilise “web robot” software to search the internet and find targeted information about specified people and companies. HMRC also says that by using the software it can more accurately pinpoint people who have failed to pay the right tax.

But it seems that the government software will also be used to locate people who are trading without informing HMRC.

Bots On The Prowl

The web robot software (essentially Internet bots) will be used in conjunction with the department’s Connect computer system.

“Connect alerts HMRC to previously invisible tax evasion by matching a vast amount of HMRC and third-party data, enabling a fast and focused response to tax evasion,” said HMRC. “It shines a light onto previously hidden relationships, uncovering anomalies between such elements as bank interest, property income and lifestyle indicators before homing in on unexplained inconsistencies.”

“By being open about our areas of interest for the coming year we hope to maximise that exchange of information and ensure we reduce the tax gap and help customers pay what they owe,” said Wells, HMRC’s Director of Risk and Intelligence.

“We will use the information we gather to pursue people who choose not to use the opportunities we provide for them to put their affairs in order on the best possible terms,” said Wells. “It will be more expensive if we come and find people, so I urge them to come forward and disclose voluntarily.”

Moonlighting Clampdown

The decision to target cyberspace to hunt down those evading tax comes as HMRC continues its campaign to recover around £7 billion lost to the Treasury each year. It is thought that this latest development, the use of ‘web robots’, will help HMRC track down rogue eBay and Gumtree businesses, as well as people earning second incomes by acting as private tutors. It will also help it hunt down so called cash-in-hand handymen and traders.

A HMRC spokesman told the Guardian newspaper for example that the software will be used to look on services such as Google and eBay to identify traders, and will then cross-reference it against its own systems.

“For example, it will see if Mr Smith’s sale of mobile phones is a trade,” the spokesman said. “If, when it looks back into our systems and finds that Mr Smith works at a supermarket and there is no mention of online trading, the compliance staff will contact him.

“It’s about catching moonlighters. We want to let these people know that we are on to them,” he told the Guardian.

Connect Success

However before designing and launching this and other campaigns, the department will seek input from interested parties.

In September last year the department’s new Connect computer system helped HMRC discover that millions of people had been taxed incorrectly between 2008 and 2010. Those people faced either a tax rebate or a demand to make up underpaid income tax.

In January this year security specialist Webroot warned that UK citizens who were in a hurry to file their tax returns before the 31 January deadline, were in danger of falling for email phishing scams.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

View Comments

  • HMRC are complete b+st'rds and threatened me with doorstep collection and goods seizure for tax I did not owe,while I was unemployed, and after I had been paying full PAYE- just because of their mistake ....


  • Because there simply is nothing worse than people earning their own living, who for one reason for another don't wish to contribute to a failing, inefficient, bloated, unethical fascist bureaucracy(?).

    It's a significant key-point to observe when the priorities of any governmental system are to criminalize citizens in order to self-sustain and further expand it's own cannibalistic mass.

    Further, this is occurring in one of the most heavily taxed nations on earth. The growth of a decentralized parallel socioeconomic system is an expected organic response to the burden of a parasitic government, and a considerably Darwinian response at that.

    We live today in a technologically and individually empowered global anarchic superstate, juxtapositioned with various self-serving, tyrannical entities trying desperately to wall-off their geographically designated wage-slave colonies from socio-evolutionary progress, liberty and social globalism.

    These entities have several weapons usable against the people it designates as their blood-and-money-obliged property:

    1) Criminalization: This works primarily as a fascist implementation owing to fear of being classified as a criminal, subjugated and enslaved to long-term punitive effects. Secondarily, this is an incredibly effective method for generating [read: extorting] revenue from extremely large population segments. Frequently laws are enacted for the SOLE purpose of bleeding money from 'citizens' to patch budget holes by means of mass criminalization. For example seat belt laws were tabled in Washington State (among others) almost exclusively by virtue projected earnings, which means that in order for the bill to succeed, huge numbers of people necessarily must to be punished and fined for exercising personal freedom. While taxation may be endemic to the system, it is utterly unforgivable to criminalize people for profit and/or social control.

    2) Communications Limitation: At it's most subtle we're barely aware it exists; where dissident thinkers and conscientious objectors become branded as enemies/communists/criminals/terrorists/etc. and therefore socially acceptable to silence, subjugate, imprison and even assassinate. Anyone remember COINTELPRO? America is the new PRC. At it's most blatant you see governments shutting down cell networks and internet infrastructure (this is achieved primarily by corporate compliance to tyrannical edict) in order to prevent people from recognizing and exercising their own sovereignty and civil liberties.

    3) Infiltration and Destruction of Social Architecture: This article outlines an example of infiltration of social constructs, again, for the purposes of plugging a budgetary hole and results in severe criminalization of a population segment who, primarily, seek independence and freedom from exploitation in a free market economy. We're not talking about a unethical corporations using social architecture to exploit workers and seek tax shelters (because that's legal). No, we're talking about factotums, teachers, gardeners, laborers, artists, musicians -- real people. Real people who embrace a forbidden freedom, idea. People who are being hunted by government moles and spies across social infrastructure that the government has in no way helped to create, but instead tries to turn into a weapon against the people. Various politicians and state governments are actively engaged in efforts to destroy and have created internal positions (in a growing number of states) to infiltrate and monitor the site in order to sue and prosecute people for mowing lawns and making small private sales. These cases come to our attention frequently. It's bad enough that social networks like Facebook data mine you for profit, it turns out that several state supreme courts (and the FBI) do not recognize social networks as being intrinsically private and therefore do not require a warrant, subpoena, probable cause or anything in order to peruse any and all of your information, regardless of your privacy settings, at their whim. There are so many examples, but the attacks and attempts to destroy by nations the world over is a clear signal that these governments are not operating in the interest or trust of the vast majority of people in the world. The attempts to undermine, censor and eradicate such an integral element to liberty and democracy demonstrates a dangerous principal that the more informed, educated and empowered we are as individuals, the greater threat that we are perceived to be.

    4) Neo-cryptofascism: The primary tool here is, as always, propaganda. Where and when effective walls cannot be built, the most successful method has been to both create a fear of crossing the wall and instill fear, hate, prejudice, and violent attitudes to what lay beyond the it. Propaganda is ubiquitous, but never labeled so in the contemporary, Instead it's backwards and ignorant attitudes are re-branded as positive qualities such as nationalism and patriotism. In practice we're taught to revile and fear things that potentially benefit ourselves and the majority population so long as it stands in opposition to corporations, government power and capitalism. This programmatic mechanism teaches us to defend the motivations and actions of our own rapists. The American government's power derives from violence and oppression and spreads the idea, both domestically and internationally, that any effort to confront, oppose or change it, is impossible and will probably end in subjugation and/or violence. It's that fear of retaliation that they hope to spread, because fear is free and actual violence is more expensive in several ways. America has a long history of sewing violence and fear into the actual methods of democracy such that true democracy does not take place, driving the dissent underground. This has the effect of pushing nearly every issue off the map short of what personal, party and corporate sponsored agenda a given politician has. Those who surface to stand in opposition of the shadow-government goals are frequently silenced, brutalized, and arrested. There has been a long standing correlation between civil rights activism and police/military violence, whereas for example, I'm unaware of any case where a swat team was called to tear gas, beat and arrest members of a Republican Convention. We're meant to believe that because force was used, it was ethically necessary and therefore perceive that dissidents, protesters, civil disobedients, conscientious objectors, etc. to be criminal in nature, and therefore an enemy of the people.

    These amongst other methods are used to dis-empower, exploit and prevent societies from evolving beyond the control of self-imposed authority.

    Change begins when we decide to defy the walls of our own prison.

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