Chasing big business with tax sheltered accounts in Switzerland is one thing. But opening up personal NHS data to the taxman is quite another.
Under SNP government proposals to amend the NHS Central Register, patient information would be shared with HMRC and other public bodies.
The purpose is to help the Scottish government identify new Scottish taxpayers. But will there be any privacy left in Scotland? Next step: Stasiland?
This latest proposal comes just two months after the Scottish Government were criticised by Audit Scotland for inadequacies in their preparation for tax changes in Scotland, and two weeks after it was revealed that HMRC admitted identifying taxpayers was proving “more complex” than originally anticipated.
Consultation closes tomorrow (Wednesday) and opposition to the changes has grown.
Even Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary, Margaret Curran MP, says this is a step too far.
“The SNP and Tory governments need to ditch these proposals”, she said, “As the leader of Scotland’s doctors warned, this risks breaking down the trust that exists between patients and Scotland’s NHS. The SNP should not be handing our NHS data to the tax man.
“The SNP and Tory Governments have had since 2012 to prepare for these changes to income tax. They are the biggest changes to the income tax regime in Scotland that we have ever seen, but only now are they taking action to identify taxpayers”.
Edward Troup, Second Permanent Secretary and Tax Assurance Commissioner at HMRC, admitted to the Commons Public Accounts Committee that identifying Scottish taxpayers is proving “more complex” than originally anticipated. He revealed that HMRC and the Scottish Government were exploring how to use third party data, including NHS data.
Earlier this month the Chair of BMA Scotland called on the Scottish Government to halt its proposal to share NHS data with the tax man.
Dr Peter Bennie, the Chair of BMA Scotland, said: “Sharing confidential health information with the government for the identification of income tax payers would seriously undermine…trust with the result that patients may feel reluctant to seek medical help from their doctor.”