Recent press commentary suggests that the Home Office are investigating a number of cases where immigrants have over-stated their income when applying to remain in the UK. The Home Office knows this to be true because they have subsequently cross-checked the income details with HMRC and the result may be deportation of the applicant.
In the past, this simply would not have happened as the different departments did not have the ability to share information gathered for different purposes. Today, government departments exchange data automatically, and use publicly available information as well.
Take the Home Office example; the application system works by scoring the immigrant against various criteria, such as fluency in English and earnings. If you score sufficient points, the prize is 'leave to remain' in the UK.
Points are given for earnings so if I need 100 points but I only score 90, upping my salary by £10,000 could be the difference between success and failure.
Roll forward 18 months and a brown envelope drops through the letterbox saying that the salary I declared on my tax return is lower than on my immigration application. My tax return papers prove that I did not meet the points requirement, and my claim fails.
This story has much wider implications. Whilst government departments are regularly lambasted for inefficiency, one area where they have excelled in recent years is the intelligent use of data.
Government artificial intelligence can now 'join the dots' in respect of information gathered for different purposes. For example, if I declare £75,000 and buy a house for £5m, HMRC’s computer will automatically spot that I don’t appear to be able to afford it. The assumption will be that I have underdeclared my income which warrants investigation. Or what about the entrepreneur building his business? He may take 'artistic licence' exaggerating early success on his website. If his online claims do not match the company’s reported income, HMRC can and will ask why.
The results of cross government department and international information sharing are with us already. So, you should think twice before exaggerating your online presence as the e-government is watching and will be knocking on your door.