HMRC shared migrants tax details with the Home Office
A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Migrants Rights Network has found that HMRC has leaded the tax details of nearly 500,000 migrants with the Home Office in a major breach of trust.
HMRC shared the details with the Home Office for UK immigration enforcement purposes, but human rights groups have criticized their actions and claim that the government’s plans to digitize the Hostile Environment will aim to increase these data sharing powers.
The Freedom of Information request revealed that tax details of 462,000 migrants was shared with the UK Home Office between 2015 and 2020.
Shared data impacted Tier 1 Visa applications
The Migrant Rights Network submitted the FOI whilst working on cases of highly skilled migrants who were refused permanent residency visas over minor tax errors.
Katharine Thane, senior advocacy advisor at the Migrant Rights Network, said:
“It is no coincidence that since 2016, some 1,697 applications for the visa made by ‘highly skilled migrants’ on a Tier 1 Visa were refused.”
Legal professionals have since questioned the Home Office’s decisions to refuse Tier 1 visas due to minor tax errors. Tier 1 Visas can be refused on the several principles including immigration or criminal matters, but minor tax errors do not come under these principles.
However, the Home Office used immigration clause 322(5) to determine judgements of “bad character” and “dishonesty” for tax errors as grounds for their refusal. This clause is usually reserved for criminals and terrorists who are a danger to national security.
Data sharing could be unlawful
Legal professionals have also questioned the legality of the Home Office’s data sharing powers. Foxglove Legal, who hold governments to account in their fight to ensure technology is used to benefit everyone, wrote a letter to the Secretary of State demanding to see documents that showed the Home Office properly assessed the impact of sharing this data.
Their lawyer Rosa Curling said that there is no “lawful agreement” to allow data sharing between HMRC and the Home Office and that using clause 322(5) in this way is “discriminatory, breaching the Equality Act.”
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