As the UK hosts the Open Government Partnership Summit 2013, I thought it would be appropriate to provide an update on the number of initiatives recently undertaken by HMRC in this area.
Our Department operates under a strict legislative framework that limits the information we can share with individuals and other organisations. We fully recognise the privileged access we have to confidential and personal information, and are committed to protect it. At the same, we play our part in the Government’s transparency agenda and are working to publish our data wherever possible.
In June 2012, alongside the Open Data White Paper, we published our Open Data Strategy. This was a key initiative for the Department to identify ways to optimise the number and type of datasets that HMRC could release under an Open Government Licence.
In this strategy, we gave a number of examples where HMRC have made data available for broader use, within our current framework, such as:
- Our programme of publication of official and national statistics relating to the tax system. These are kept under regular review, with cost-effective enhancements incorporated as appropriate, based on consultation with users. The Department also publishes performance and management information on a quarterly basis.
- The key transparency datasets released on www.data.gov.uk, including details of departmental spending and procurement, information on HMRC’s organisation and information on meetings between senior officials and external organisations.
- The creation in May 2011 of the HMRC Datalab, a secure environment enabling accredited researchers to undertake analysis using HMRC’s anonymised administrative and survey data for the first time.
The last 12 months have seen several developments in the context of Open Data, with the publication of the Government response to the Shakespeare report and the UK’s presidency of the G8 embracing the theme and developing an Open Data Charter.
This is the continuation of a journey for us and we are still learning.
However, we've tried to be responsive to the new and emerging challenges posed by Transparency and Open Data.
For example, in December 2012, we established a Tax Transparency Sector Board, with external representation, which has become a public forum for HMRC to consider access and use of our datasets and drive the Open Data Strategy forward.
In August 2013 we released an initial inventory of our datasets on data.gov.uk as part of the Government response to the Shakespeare Review. We are currently exploring the potential release of further information that helps to promote transparency objectives.
In September 2013, HMRC’s website for overseas trade statistics was declared as the overall winner of the RSS Excellence in Official Statistics Award.
The newly created website, designed after extensive consultation with users, offers increased data availability and simplified data access, improved data visualisation, custom tables, and enhanced table-storing and sharing for social media. On this website we have also made available the datasets used to produce Overseas Trade Statistics and importers’ details information in an open format.
Finally, the most notable of our initiatives has been the public consultation we launched over the summer, on options for making some of the data that we hold more widely available to support the Government’s open data, transparency and growth objectives.
The consultation includes options for the wider sharing of aggregated and anonymised data and the release of some VAT registration information (not including any financial data). We are currently considering responses which will help the Government decide whether and how to take options forward, while ensuring that taxpayer confidentiality is protected and data security and privacy are guaranteed.
We'll continue supporting the Government in the development of this policy and are aiming to play a key role in the development of a UK National Action Plan.
HMRC is very much learning and developing when it comes to transparency and publishing more of our data, so I’d be keen to hear from readers what other sources of advice, case studies or best practice are out there.