HMRC shared 5,000 citizen records with local councils in pilot ‘to analyse vulnerable and overlapping debtors’

Written by Sam Trendall on 6 May 2021 in News

Newly published information-sharing register reveals programme took place last autumn

Credit: Images Money/CC BY 2.0

HM Revenue and Customs shared with 13 local councils data on more than 5,000 citizens that owe money to government, as part of a pilot programme intended to “analyse vulnerable and overlapping debtors across a range of government departments and local authorities”.

The three-month trial scheme, which began on 29 June last year, also involved the Cabinet Office, Department for Work and Pensions, Student Loans Company, and three agencies of the Ministry of Justice: HM Courts and Tribunals Service; the Office of the Public Guardian; and the Legal Aid Agency.

The programme saw HMRC share data relating to 5,456 people that owe money to government. Information disclosed included unique identification codes, names, permanent addresses, contact or forwarding addresses and related identification data, National Insurance numbers, and dates of birth. All information was relayed via “government secure email”.

Related content

According to detail provided in government’s recently published register of public sector information-sharing agreements: “The aims of the pilot are to: achieve a better understanding of the debt owed to government from debtors and in particular vulnerable individuals; gain an understanding of areas of overlap where individuals owe debt to more than one government organisation; assess the feasibility of debt collection functions in government having a common list of vulnerable customers; [and] inform a recommendation for additional pilots and next steps.”

The 13 local authorities that took part in the pilot represented Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton and Hove, Cornwall, Ealing, Enfield, Islington, Lewisham, Liverpool, Manchester, Rotherham, and Southwark.

PublicTechnology has contacted HMRC requesting information on whether data-sharing has continued after the scheduled end date and details of any other policy or programme that have resulted.

The government information-sharing register contains details of all agreements between public sector bodies to share data under the provisions of the first four chapters of the fifth part of 2017’s Digital Economy Act.

These sections relate to the sharing of sensitive information for the purposes of “public service delivery, debt, fraud and civil registration”.

A total of 61 agreements are listed in the register.


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology


Share this page




Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

HMRC finds strong support for online Child Benefit claims – but ‘digital by default’ would cause problems for one in five users
17 May 2023

Department publishes findings of study conducted ahead of planned digitisation initiative

NHS app: Local bodies required to offer patients choice of treatment providers
31 May 2023

Citizens will be presented with details of five or more hospitals or other options

Interview: CDDO chief Lee Devlin on the ‘move from being disruptive to collaborative’
23 May 2023

In the first of a series of exclusive interviews, the head of government’s ‘Digital HQ’ talks to PublicTechnology about the Central Digital and Data Office’s work to unlock £8bn...

Government full FoI responses fall below 40% for first time
2 May 2023

Treasury, Defra, Foreign Office, DLUHC and Cabinet Office each provided all requested information to no more than a quarter of inquiries