Isle of Man tax haven accidentally leaks personal details of hundreds of taxpayers
An investigation is underway after the blunder by the island’s tax body
Income Tax Division released more than 500 taxpayer’s email addresses
Isle of Man is home to many rich and famous trying to slash their tax bills
The Isle of Man – a renowned tax haven for the rich and famous – has accidentally leaked the personal details of hundreds of taxpayers.
An investigation is underway after the blunder by the island’s tax and revenue body released more than 500 individual email addresses.
The mistake came shortly before 5pm yesterday when the Isle of Man Government Income Tax Division (ITD) sent an email out to residents advertising its new Twitter account.
But rather than keeping the correspondent’s details private, everyone who received the email also got a lengthy mailing list which included hundreds of email addresses – many belonging to government employees.
The tax division attempted to ‘recall’ the message but it was too late.
More than four hours after the mistake, the tax office were forced to apologise in a further email.
On an island known for discretion, many of those who had their details leaked may be concerned their decision to pay tax on the island rather than the UK has been made public.
With corporation tax at 0 per cent and income tax rates of just 20 per cent of less, it is perhaps not surprisingly the island is seen by many as a tax haven.
Offshore banking are replacing more traditional industries such as fishing as businesses and the rich take advantage of the low tax rates – as well as lack of capital gains tax, wealth tax, stamp duty and inheritance tax.
It has become home to many of the rich and famous who choose it in a bid to slash their tax bills.
In 2013, Ukip leader Nigel Farage was accused of attempting to avoid tax by setting up an offshore fund.
Some of its other most famous residents include racing driver Nigel Mansell and Kwik Save founder Albert Gubay while Jeremy Clarkson owned a converted lighthouse there until 2010.
The ITD have now promised to carry out an investigation into how the email addresses were sent out.
But it is not the first time that a public body has leaked personal details.
In May 2010, Britain’s tax authorities accidentally released sensitive personal details – including salary information – of 50,000 people on tax credits.
HM Revenue & Customs sent recipients other people’s personal information in the post along with their annual tax credit award notice.
One woman from Greater Manchester claimed she received a letter that included her neighbour’s earnings, and the bank sort code and the last four digits of the bank account number of another claimant.
The mistake was put down to a computer error at a commercial printing company.
Email blunders also appear to be relatively common after Australian G20 organisers were left red-faced in March this year when an email autofill error led to a leak of passport details for 31 world leaders, including Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.
The breach was caused by a staff member at Australia’s Department of Immigration who mistakenly sent the personal information of all the leaders to the Local Organising Committee of the Asian Cup international soccer tournament.
In 2007 in what became Europe’s biggest loss of confidential personal information, millions of people’s private data was leaked.
CD files containing information on 25 million of child benefit claimants went missing after a junior HMRC official sent them out by unregistered post.
The records included parental names, addresses, dates of birth, child benefit and national insurance numbers and where relevant bank or building society details.
The breach led to the resignation of Paul Gray, HMRC chairman.
In this latest leak, which the ITD called ‘a genuine mistake by a member of staff’, the tax division has promised to carry out an investigation into how it could have occurred.
In an email to those whose details were leaked it said: ‘You may have received an email today that regrettably contained the email addresses of other people.
‘The Income Tax Division regards your information as sensitive and confidential, and apologises unreservedly for this unacceptable lapse, which was a genuine mistake by a member of staff.
‘We can confirm that this mistake is in no way related to any of Government’s core online systems and that no information was released other than the ‘email addresses.
‘The Division has initiated an internal investigation to see how this occurred and what steps are needed to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
‘Please accept our sincere apologies.’
The embarrassing leak will raise questions about how secure their personal data is at a time when the island’s government is trying to encourage more people to file tax affairs online.