back to article HMRC gets it wrong on one in ten personal records

Almost one in ten records within the Inland Revenue's frameworks database contain errors, the government has admitted. The frameworks database feeds information into various other databases held not just by HMRC but other departments too. The problems came to light after enquiries by Tory MP for Putney Justine Greening …


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  1. DavCrav Silver badge

    Like mine, for example

    So far, more than two years has passed since I found out that the government thought I had lived in Scotland, assigned me a temporary national insurance number while they sorted their shit out, then found that they screwed up the temporary number assigned to me because they screwed up the file the first time round. They lose the letters I send, can't decide what my name is, or where I work.

    They are a bunch of useless fucks. This is not libel because (a) it's true, see case in point as proof, and (b) it's certainly in the public interest...

    Not anonymous because I'm fed up to the back teeth with their complete incompetence, and they know that I'm fed up.

  2. Adrian Challinor

    You just don't understand

    The records are not wrong, they have deliberate errors in them, introduced as a security measure. Now, when they leave the copy made to a USB Memory stick on the 16:40 to Cheam (because no Civil Servant worth his pension would work after 5pm) Wackie Jacqui can stand up in Parliament and honestly state that no real information was lost - it was all encrypted.

    Mines the one with keyfob in the pocket.

  3. Mycroft
    Black Helicopters

    Tuttle? Buttle?

    We're all living in Brazil now...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is of no surprise to me

    My girlfriend has an ongoing issue where someone has been claiming tax credits using her NI number. The Department for Work and Pensions refuse to fix this, despite often writing to her to confirm details. She always calls and writes back saying that she is not married to xxx and does not have 2 children but the DWP is not interested in fixing it. The police don't care either, even though this has been reported as a crime: identity theft and fraud. The department that issues NI numbers (HMRC?) aren't interested either.

    Result - nobody in government is interested in fixing problems that are of their own making. And we have no idea where to go to get this fixed.

    Any suggestions?

  5. Sooty

    data of birth

    This could be the field that's causing all the problems :)

  6. Anonymous Coward

    And another

    Pretty much the same story here.

    My record doesnt seem to have updated in 2.5 years so they're sending all my information to a company that I was made redundant from 2 years ago.

    On top of that, they say I dont work for the company I do, they have received no info from this company at all (which they have - I have IR stamped confirmations that they received the P45, P60 etc). But they do have me also employed by a company I did 3 days contract work for in 2007.

    Before xmas my only recourse was to make an appointment at the local IR enquiry centre and ram all the documentation down their throat.

    Their response - sorry but we cant update your record because we've sent information to your old company in the past few weeks.

    So they now have to send the minutes of or conversation to a different office to have my record altered. Yeah, that's going to work.

    I should be due a £1000 refund when they finally sort this out.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    And of course..

    It seems to me that the publicly funded sector (that is agencies and organisations funded directly from taxes levied to make manifest policy) much prefer to take three or four or more attempts to sort things out.

    The reasons seem to include:

    + job security (in times of possible job cuts it is better to have as full an in tray as possible)

    + calibre of managers (dodgy managers using shady means to 'evidence' (I use the term loosely) that key performance indicators are being met)

    + a clear demonstration that individuals are operating well beyond their competence levels.

    + (add your own details here)

  8. Pink Duck
    IT Angle


    "Almost one in ten records" (10%) != 3.5m errors in 47m records (~7.45%)

    It's nearer 5% than 10% if you're rounding to the nearest 2,350,000 records.

  9. Nic Brough
    Thumb Up

    @AC 14:29

    >Result - nobody in government is interested in fixing problems that are of their own making. And we have no idea where to go to get this fixed.

    >Any suggestions?

    Actually, yes, two. You've already mentioned one possible one - getting the justice sytems involved. Ok, so the police are ignoring it, but it's worth chasing. Try contacting the IPCC, after warning your local police force that you are going to unless they take action. I've found this usually gets you something - at least a decent explanation of why they've not done anything, plus some often useful suggestions of what you can try next (and, no, I don't mean suggestions like "stick it where the sun don't shine", I do honestly mean that my local police officer apologised for their inaction and recommended two organisations to talk to who actually were able to help) Another option is to threaten the tax office with civil actions, from loss of earnings, loss of your time, distress or even getting data protection notices taken out on them.

    The other trick which worked for a friend of mine was deed poll. She changed her name for personal reasons, not thinking about tax, but when she informed various government agencies, it seemed to throw all their systems into some sort of reset mode - they all asked for stacks of previous identity information, and somehow managed to sort out her income tax, NI and work records because they couldn't make sense of her previous identity (because they'd f****d it up themselves).

  10. Richard
    Thumb Down

    I'm in the 1 in 10 too ...

    I've been writing to IR regularly over the last two years to try to get them to accept that I've moved house. They are still sending letters to my old house (luckily the current occupant kindly forwards them on to me). Last one was received there in Nov 2008, 26 months after I moved.

  11. David Hicks


    This is why we can't let them do the ID card thing.

    If they can't get your name, address and date of birth right then how in the hell are they going to get an all-singing, all-dancing, fully integrated, cross-agency, ID, health and benefits database to work?

    It's going to be a total clusterf*ck isn't it?

  12. Tom Cooke

    Me too

    I got chased (and threatened with legal action) for non-payment of poll tax in a town where I've never lived. I sent them lots of evidence, and they dropped it - but they wouldn't tell me where the mistake had occurred because - guess what - as the person they were chasing turned out not really to be me, the Data Protection Act wouldn't let them give me any information!!!

  13. Anonymous Coward

    NO surprise after my dealings with HMRC/DWP

    No surprise to any of the HMRC coc@@-ups.

    I have a 16yr old son with no NI number - according to DWP he doesn't exist!

    Funny that; my wife has been receiving Child Benefit for years for him and he has an NHS number and GP. Only, I cannot get the CBO to talk to HMRC to confirm - "Data Protection" rules (who's protection?). I point out that at some stage they must have 'talked' to each other for everyone else, because his friends received them by their 16th birth day automatically (we are at this stage months after my son's birthday)

    CBO will not talk to me further because I am not the mother of the child and do not receive the benefit (although they do know she lives with me...) Apparently they will talk to (any?) woman who can answer "security questions" - I suggest any female I work with to get on the phone and asks me for the answers as they question (now at this point the CBO hang up on me).

    Anyway, back to HMRC, they want a copy of my son's Birth Certificate to prove he exists, on checking with them a photocopy will suffice (incredible!). However, as their original request was sent more than three weeks ago (letter dated 1st Aug 2008 and we were stupid enough to go holiday just after that) - it will now take 3 months (why 3?) to process. They will not accept a verbal read back of the payment reference from the CBO which they could use to confirm he exists with the CBO.....

    I should really not be surprised at the ineptitude of the HMRC, after all, my wife and I both work at the sharp end in the NHS - solely for the NHS. HMG pays our salaries; makes all deductions but still insists I self certifcate for Taxation......

  14. John Colman

    Ex-HMRC employee

    If it's the central system that's wrong, then this will actually affect every record... All of the various utilities and applications take the address, name, NINO, DOB, title and gender (plus deceased status) from one central system. Any changes to these entries will flow to another area of HMRC overnight (tax credits to income tax, Self assessment etc)... The most worrying problem is the number of entries marked as deceased on this system, i used to get at least 1 call every month (income tax) asking me to mark the taxpayer as alive again after they received a "Sorry your [insert relation] has died" form for themselves...

  15. Steve

    @ DavCrav

    "Not anonymous because I'm fed up to the back teeth with their complete incompetence, and they know that I'm fed up."

    I wouldn't worry about it - by the sounds of it, they couldn't find you if they wanted to

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    In other news Sir Michael Scholar, head of the UK Statistics Authority, said today government ministers should no longer have advance notice of controversial statistics in order to restore trust in such figures, according to the Times.

    That's right...don't believe the numbers, just believe the lies we tell you instead. wankers

  17. RW

    Causative factors?

    Off the top of my head, I can point to several probable causes of this incredible ineptitude:

    1. Hiring the cheapest possible labor to input data. Guess what? If you don't pay people a decent salary, they're going to think of you just what you think of them. Secondary analysis: the pay rates are so poor that intelligent, literate, responsible people don't have any interest in these jobs. Data entry may not look like it requires brains, but it's difficult, tedious, fatiguing work, and for that reason alone deserves reasonable pay.

    2. Hiring PC types as managers. This seems endemic under NuLabour: maybe I'm just expressing my misogynism, but all too often when there's a major cockup in the NHS or social services, there's a woman at the head of the organization. In addition to sex, other PC characteristics are probably also used, rather than "is the person competent to do the job?" I'm thinking of skin color, ethnicity, place of residence, total contributed to the Labour Party and so on. [Actually, that's not hiring for PC reasons. It's just good old fashioned corruption.]

    3. The Blairite fixation on statistics, targets, goals, graphs, databases, etc, as though these are ends in themselves instead of merely indicators (and not necessarily good ones) of how well the job is being done. Sometimes I wonder if the Scientologists have infiltrated Whitehall and introduced Hubbardistic management methods.

    4. The sheer stupidity of the people in charge. They love government by tabloid headline, and never think beyond some superficial solution to a problem. Result: side effects and unexpected consequences. I am flabbergasted how often HM Government comes up with some stupid, cockamamie idea to solve some trivial problem in society. I would have thought that the ministers of the Crown had more important fish to fry than worrying about people's waistlines. Not only stupid, but shallow and badly educated: so much is clear.

    [Please note that per my promise of a few weeks ago, I have named no names.]

    Just as Barack Obama is going to have his hands full trying to undo the mess that Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld have created, so whoever forms the next government in the UK is going to have little time for anything but sorting out the administrative problems resulting from NuLabour's idiocy.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    They told me data was entered manually offshore

    A couple of years ago they charged me company car tax for three very high end cars that I don't have, rather than for my low end Vauxhall. When I chased up they gave me the run around so I got an accountant to write to them. First they said that my company (a large bank) provided them incorrect data - which I checked as I had access to the file and found the data supplied was correct. Eventually, after another letter from an accountant they admitted that they send supplied data files for P11Ds out for "offshore manual data entry" where a lot of entries get transcribed incorrectly.

    Any company running the shambolic way the country is run would be bankrupt and out of business in days. Oh, UK Limited is bankrupt and out of business so I guess I have proved my point....

  19. N Silver badge

    Incompetence on a biblical scale

    Just beggars belief,

    They spent most of last year spraying data left right and chelsea & loosing it at every opportunity they could.

    And almost comical to hear that a fair slice of it is incorrect.

    They are a completely hopeless pack of incompetent fools where anything remotely connected with IT is concerned.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    some facts

    A few facts you may want:

    There is no central government database holding everyone's information for everything. There's lots of seperate ones holding different and only relevent information for each department. HMRC only recieve tax returns from your employer as they have the national insurance database. All of these records are all inputted by hand, that means all your national insurance contirbutions on a monthly or weekely basis are inputted by someone at a terminal, yes mistakes are going to happen.

    As for your address, unless you tell HMRC directly that you've moved then they don't know about it as unless you are claiming benefits (information held on a seperate system which updates the HMRC one).

    Updating of the databases is also very expensive also. It's quite easy to spend £7m for a twice yearly software upgrade. After all there are contracts with external suppliers, there are the man hours to pay for for the development, the analysis and the go between between suplier and customer before the requirements are all ironed out (and all this is costing manhours long before the coding starts), then you have the time taken to write the change and then to test on a seperate testing environment. Just to give an idea.

    Transfering of sensitive data only happens when moving the data between departments where there is no direct secure networked link. It takes months of negociation with security teams to authorise the best method of the data transfer and an encrypted memory stick can be used. These sticks destroy the information on them when an attempt is made to access the information incorrectly. it's all very serious business for data transfers unless your a blank in london i suppose, but fortunately all the important stuff isn't there.

    it's not all wonderful but its not as bad as the press make it out to be, mostly because they're all clueless.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @some facts - It takes months

    "It takes months of negociation with security teams to authorise the best method of the data transfer and an encrypted memory stick can be used".

    Think you've said it all really, why does it take months to decide to put some data on a flash drive? (and do it securely). If this is true then I would say that the press are underplaying the problem.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US IRS

    Has one of the more accurate data base for people who work. Mainly because they want their money

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    As a terrorist subversive intellectual tax-dodger...

    ...May I be the first to welcome the clusterfuckwittery and ineptitude of our pork barrel dwelling overlords!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crap distillation mechanism

    As Paul Craig Roberts reminds us, "Everything the government touches turns to crap; It's called the Reverse Midas Touch". This is not a new insight, but he puts it so neatly!

    Now, keep in mind this view of government as essentially a machine for turning everything into crap. What happens when it operates recursively for a while? Think of, for instance, a marine food chain in which the plankton ingest some mercury, fish eat plankton, and larger fish eat smaller fish. At each stage, the mercury gets more concentrated.

    That's what government databases do. As time goes by, they come to contain more and more concentrated crap.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Female Heads

    "2. Hiring PC types as managers. This seems endemic under NuLabour: maybe I'm just expressing my misogynism, but all too often when there's a major cockup in the NHS or social services, there's a woman at the head of the organization."

    Head of Haringey social services too!

    Wacky Jacky

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Female Heads

    "It takes months of negociation with security teams to authorise the best method of the data transfer and an encrypted memory stick can be used."

    Why does it take months to authorise? How many different methods of data transfer are there?: USB memory stick, portable hard drive, floppy disk..uh...I wouldn't be surprised if HMRC still use that, DAT tape, DVD, CD, ISDN, the Internet, email, FTP..

    You're writing in support of HMRC, with your level of knowlege, seemingly as if you've worked for them, yet, statements you're making actually show their incompetence!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    HMRC Incompetence

    I've been battling with HMRC for the last 2 years since their computer system suddenly decided to change my address of its own volition.

    I've telephoned and written on numerous occasions, but every time HMRC correct my address the system just reverts it to the incorrect address a day or so later. This has caused untold amounts of correspondence, statements etc. to go missing.

    To date there is still no end in sight to this problem.

    The HMRC computer system is a law unto itself and it has decided that it knows better than either HRMC staff of the people whose data is being held.

    I dread to think of what will happen when the ID database is up and running and all sorts of institutions take its contents as absolute gospel.

  28. Britt Johnston

    the wiki way forward

    What gets me in so many of the cases is that the way to correct errors is such a labyrinth.

    Please add a user requirement to the national database "all data pertaining to users may be corrected online by them".

    This may bring new difficulties - why are my police convictions set to 9999? - but maybe a decentralised approach offers more hope than than a centralised one.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good work!

    90% or records are fine.

    Of the 10% at fault, most of those will contain minor problems.

    Of the remainder, some of those will be letting people away with avoidance, causing them to pay less than they should be or receiving more than they should. An annoyance for society but no real issue for those affected.

    So we have only a small % which are actually causing an issue.

    Of those, most will be resolved when people complain/appeal.

    So wenow have an even smaller fraction which are actually any cause for concern. Typical of El Reg to jump on the HMRC-bashing bandwagon.

    I think HMRC and their partners should be commended for providing such a good (and accurate!) service for such a low cost. I only hope that the ID database is as good, then we can start to stamp out the terrorists, sex traffickers and child molesters that plague this great nation.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    My solution was to write on the envelope : FAO of a COMPETENT manager, with a hand written note explaining that if they didn't sort out their records that they could read about it in the national press.

    Problem solved :)

  31. Greencat

    Quelle surprise

    Around 10 years ago - I somehow morphed into two people in the HMRC database (one with the correct first/surname combination and the second with them reversed). It took several years for them to realise - when they decided to find out why my mirror identity had never responded to any of their letters and hassled my last employer.

    It took several phone calls and letters to get it sorted as their presumption was that I was somehow at fault.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    1 in 3?

    From the 31 replies on here, 9 are people with incorrect details.

    Without getting anal on the percentages thats more like 1 in 3 incorrect records :-)

    .....I'll get my coat

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Solution to HMRC problems

    The biggest kick up the ar5e you can give to the HMRC is to make your complaint to your MP.

    Once a formal complaint has been lodged by your MP it puts a black mark against your Tax District. The District Inspector (the guy in charge) will do everything possible to resolve an 'MP case' ASAP because it's the most important statistic he/she has to produce each year.

    Another reason for telling your MP is because Ministers of Parliament have their own HMRC "MP's unit" who are EXCELLENT - so your MP has no clue how bad it is for the rest of us. The MPs are allocated two NAMED Inspectors of Taxes (no clueless call centre muppets for MPs!) who know the MP's tax affairs inside out and proactively help to resolve any problems immediately.

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