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HMRC mails wrong private info to 50,000 taxpayers

New government, old data loss

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Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs apologised today for sending out private information to 50,000 tax credit recipients.

One taxpayer who contacted The Register said: "We received our tax credit notice with our National Insurance details but on the back were two strangers' work, childcare and pay details."

He then received a note from the Revenue which blamed a print supplier for wrongly preparing the notices.

The letter, signed by Paul Gerrard, director of tax credits, said: "I wish to apologise for this error and any inconvenience that it might cause ... I would be very grateful if you could return the incorrect notice in the envelope provided." The note included a stamped addressed envelope.

We asked HMRC how many of the 50,000 letters were wrongly printed and how many included other people's details but they could not tell us.

A spokeswoman for HMRC said: "HMRC takes data security extremely seriously. Unfortunately an error has occurred in one of the tax credits print runs causing some customer information to be wrongly formatted.

"Investigations are underway to identify the cause of the problem and we will be contacting affected customers in writing this week, apologising and providing a corrected award notice. An initial analysis shows that ID theft could not result from this printing error."

Last year the Revenue responded to the Poynter Review, which was set up after the loss of the entire child benefit database in 2007. A civil servant burned the database onto two CDs and popped them in the post. When the 25 million records failed to arrive they were sent again, twice.

The Rev promised "to make best endeavours to implement the Poynter recommendations by 25 June 2011".

13 months to go then... ®

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