State plan to put your bedroom online
Digital pictures showcasing the interiors of taxpayers' homes will be posted on the internet under freshly laid plans to be considered by the Deputy Prime Minister.
Under the scheme to revaluate 22 million homes, council tax snoopers could be given digital cameras to snap inside people's homes, including their bathrooms, bedrooms and conservatories.
Confidentiality inside the home is an "old fashioned attitude" and taxpayers should feel no need to "hide" their expenses or value of their property, said Paul Sanderson, director of modernisation for the tax inspectors.
Instead, photographs of the property, details and "everything" about how much residents paid for their house, or rent, should be posted on publicly accessible website.
His suggestions have caused outrage among politicians and taxpayer alliances, while also raising fears among internet commentators.
Their concern centres on property information, including photographs, being sold in bulk to junk mailers and marketing companies, in light of the government's decision to sell private data provided by the DVLA.
"Householders are already angry at the fact that camera-wielding tax inspectors can barge inside their family homes to record the number of bedrooms, size of their garage and their conservatory," said Caroline Spelman, the Conservative minister.
"I suspect that people will be further shocked to discover that this private information would then be published on the internet for anyone to see and sold to junk mailers."
The internet plan aims to reduce the number of people appealing against council tax payments by letting them use the website to compare their home's value with neighbours'.
Speaking in November, the ODP said internal inspections of homes would only be undertaken where information cannot be gathered through "other sources."
At the time, it added, "It would be extremely rare that photographs are taken inside a person's home and this would certainly not be done without the occupier's permission."
But already 5,000 inspectors are being armed with digitial cameras fitted with telephoto lenses to zoom in on home improvements, according to The Sun.
The newspaper claimed John Prescott would then "hit people" with higher tax bills once the improvements to the property are evidenced.
The revelations coincide with a review of local taxation from Sir Michael Lyons, former Labour councillor, who believes it is "absolutely legitimate" that homes which have benefitted from inflation receive higher tax bills.
As a result, it is expected that around a third of England's homes - around seven million – will move up a council tax band.
In a statement, the Tory Party reflected on the shake up of council tax, digital cameras included, saying, " This is a snoopers' charter, and runs the risk of being an instruction manual for would-be burglars.
"Day by day under this Labour Government, the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens are being steadily eroded."