Tax privacy nightmares come true
Thursday, May 15, 2008/
Ever wondered how much your neighbour earns? If you lived in Italy, you would probably already know, after a recent tax privacy catastrophe saw the nation’s tax details released to the public.
According to The Economist, on the first day of May the Italian tax office published the 2005 tax returns of every Italian taxpayer – some 38 million people – on the web.
The move generated an uproar that quickly saw the details removed, but not before the website was jammed with people downloading the details. Many of the juicier details were published elsewhere on the web, while one enterprising fellow put a CD containing the details for sale on eBay for the princely sum of $75.
The release of the details made for some awkward questions for a few more interesting taxpayers – one seemingly wealthy aristocrat, for example, all of a sudden had to start explaining to friends how he maintained his luxurious lifestyle on a declared income of just $US47,000 per year.
Although the decision to publish the details was authorised by the Italian Government, it has since been reversed after Italy’s data-protection body condemned the move, while an Italian consumer advocacy group has launched legal action on behalf aggrieved taxpayers.