The UK government department in charge of tax has called for people to start publicly sharing their tax situation on Twitter in order to get help, the BBC reports.
HMRC explained that because its phone lines are so busy with people trying to sort out their tax, everyone should try tweeting their questions at an experimental Twitter account instead.
It might sound like a good idea that the UK government is trying to use the internet to help you get your tax problems sorted. But the trouble with HMRC’s plan is that any tweets sent to the HMRC Twitter account are public, meaning that everyone can read them. That’s not a problem if you’re just asking general questions, but some people might not understand how Twitter works and share personal information.
To try and avoid any embarrassing incidents of people tweeting their tax details out in public, HMRC has sent out tweets to try and persuade people to keep the really juicy information to themselves:
HMRC is piloting using Twitter to help with general questions. We will never ask you for personal information.
— HMRCcustomers (@HMRCcustomers) January 2, 2015
Good Morning, we are here until 3pm to answer general questions about our services. No personal info please.
— HMRCcustomers (@HMRCcustomers) December 31, 2014
The experiment has been mocked by MPs, with Margaret Hodge calling it “laughable.” Mark Garnier said that he couldn’t think of a tax question that could fit into Twitter’s 140-character limit on tweets.
HMRC communications director Stephen Hardwick defended the experiment, saying that the Twitter account was only a supplement for phone enquiries. “It’s a pilot, it is starting small,” he said. “But the whole point of social media is you answer a question once and hundreds or thousands of people can see the answer, rather than answering the phone to all of those people asking the same question.”